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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: PHY3030 Module Title: PHYSICS OF STARS
Module Provider: Physics Short Name: PH3-PS
Level: HE3 Module Co-ordinator: MURDIN BN Prof (Physics)
Number of credits: 10 Number of ECTS credits: 5
Module Availability

Module Availability:


Semester 2


Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment


Weighting Towards Module Mark( %)


Coursework (Computational project on stellar structure)




Examination (End of semester)




Qualifying Condition(s) 


University general regulations refer.


Module Overview

In this module the student will be given an overview of the conditions necessary to form stars, and of the current models of stellar structure and evolution.



PHY3026 - Nuclear Astrophysics.


Module Aims

To give the student an understanding of why stars are the size, brightness and colours that they are, an insight into the extreme physical conditions inside stars, and an introduction to the very wide range of physical processes that occur in stars.


Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course you will have an understanding both of stellar models and the physical processes involved in determining their structure. You will understand the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, i.e. how the mass and age of a star determine its brightness and colour.  You will recognise effects on the properties of stars when they contain extremely dense quantum fluids and extremely hot relativisitic fluids, via the equations of state.  You will be able to create a computer model of a real star to predict from its mass its size and brightness, and compare with observation.  You should also be able to use the equations of state to solve unseen problems from astrophysical observation. Completion of PH3-Nuclear Structure and Astrophysics or equivalent will be an advantage (though not a prerequisite) because energy generation will not be covered in this module.


Module Content

Module Content


Physics of Stars


Trends in observed stellar parameters (4 hours)


i.                Stellar spectra;


ii.              Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram;


iii.             Mass-Luminosity relationship.


iv.            Colour index;


v.              The Saha equation for absorption line-strengths.





Proto-star Formation (4 hours)


i.                Gravitational contraction;


ii.              Hydrostatic equilibrium, virial theorem;


iii.             Brown dwarves.



Main Sequence Stellar Structure (8 hours)


i.                Pressure, density and temperature;


ii.              Internal pressure gradients;


iii.             Simple stellar models;


iv.            Equation of state and the Virial Theorem;


v.              Heat transport and opacity;


vi.            Modelling the Sun (Polytropes);


vii.           Minimum and maximum masses for stars.



Late Stellar Evolution (4 hours)


i.                Red Giants;


ii.              White dwarfs and neutron stars.


Methods of Teaching/Learning

24 hours of lectures and tutorials.


Selected Texts/Journals

Essential Reading :


i.                 A C Phillips, The Physics of Stars, J Wiley & Sons, 1994, ISBN 0-471-94155-7.



Recommended Reading :


i.                R J Taylor , The Stars, their Structure and Evolution, Springer-Verlag.


ii.              Carroll and Ostlie, An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1996, ISBN 0-201-54730-9.


Last Updated

August 2010.