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Stellar Astronomy
The Sun by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory - 20100819.jpg
ASTR 508
Section: 101
Instructor: Jeremy Heyl
Office: Zoom
Office Hours: by appointment
Class Schedule: MW 11-12, Tue 10-11
Classroom: Zoom
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Stellar Astronomy

Instructor: Jeremy Heyl

The course will be quite hands-on. You will be using the stellar evolution software (MESA) to calculate the structure and evolution of stars through a series of laboratory-like assignments that you will complete during the three hours of weekly classes and outside of class.

Learning Goals

  1. Become an expert in the use of a state-of-the-art stellar evolution software (MESA).
  2. Calculate for yourself the structure and evolution of stars of various masses and metallicities from the molecular cloud to the end of time.
  3. Determine how stars constrain physics beyond the standard model.
  4. Calculate the evolution of binary stars with mass transfer.
  5. Synthesize the results from MESA to find the general trends of stellar structure and evolution.
  6. Contrast these trends with the observations of stars: surface emission and seismology.

International Students Online Experience

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  1. Basic Stars, Basic MESA
  2. Equations of Stellar Structure
  3. Convection
  4. Polytropes
  5. Pre-Main-Sequence Evolution
  6. Nuclear Physics
  7. The Evolution of a Low-Mass Star
  8. Post-Main-Sequence Evolution
  9. Oscillations
  10. High-Mass Stars
  11. Supernovae
  12. Nucleosynthesis

Here are some additional notes and readings for some foundational topics that we will not cover in detail in this course, but you could find useful.

I have also scanned my lecture notes:

Grading Scheme

  1. Sixty percent of your grade will consist of assignments that I will assign at the end of each week. They will appear in the lecture notes on this website. They are due at the end of the following week. Some will be things that you can complete with pen and paper, and others will be things that you will complete with MESA --- each assignment will count equally for five percent of your grade.
  2. Forty percent of your grade will consist of a final project to be completed with MESA. You and I can discuss your project during the term. You will perform the research, write your results in the form of a research paper (less than 3000 words) and give a five-minute presentation during the last class on 30 November. You will be assessed on the quality of the research (40%), your paper (40%) and the presentation (20%). The paper will be due on 10 December. Here is the project page: ASTR 508 Projects


The MESA instrument papers:

Python and MESA with python:

Also check out the Simulating Stars Summer School because we will be using some of the labs from there too.

Textbooks to Consult

We will be following the Open-Astrophysics-Bookshelf/stellar-physics-notes by Edward Brown that integrates MESA into a course on stellar evolution, just like us!

You might find it useful to look at some other books too, so here is a list.

This is at just the right level of detail and difficulty.

  • Collins, George W. (1989), The Fundamentals of Stellar Astrophysics, Freeman, ISBN 0-7167-1993-2, PDF

James Lattimer has prepared a detailed monograph on stars, stellar atmospheres, white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes as well as the underlying physics: PDF

Here are some more or less recent ones.

  • Bohm-Vitense, Erika (1989), Introduction of Stellar Astrophysics, Cambridge ISBN 0-521-34871-4, Google-book
  • Hansen, Carl J.; Kawaler, Steven D.; Trimble, Virginia (2004), Stellar Interiors (2nd ed.), Springer, ISBN 0-387-20089-4; available in an online edition from the UBC library
  • Kippenhahn, R.; Weigert, A., Weiss, A. (2012), Stellar Structure and Evolution, Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-642-30304-3, available in an online edition from the UBC library; Google-book

And here are some classics.

  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1967), An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure, Dover, ISBN 978-0-486-13628-8, Google-book, e-book
  • Clayton, Donald (1983), Principles of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis, Chicago, ISBN 0-226-10953-4, Google-book,
  • Schwarzschild, Martin (1962) Structure and Evolution of the Stars, Dover, ISBN 978-0-486-61479-3 , Google-book, e-book

Meeting Times

Lecture/Lab (Sept 5 - Nov 30) MW 11-12, Tue 10-11 Zoom
Office Hours Make an appointment Zoom