Course syllabus


RRY145 / ASM520 Stellar physics lp3 VT20 (7.5 hp)

Course is offered by the department of Space, Earth and Environment


The re-exam will open in the 'Assignments' section "RRY145 (ASM520) Stellar Physics Re-Exam (June 8th)" at 14:00 on Monday June 8th. It will close for uploads 18:30 sharp.

Project (re-)submission

The (re-)submission deadline for the project, for those who have not passed already, is set for June 15th at the end of the day. You can submit it via the assignment "RRY145 (ASM520) Stellar Physics project work re-submissions". Remember that you will need to pass the project in order to pass the full course. If you do not submit before this deadline we cannot guarantee that we will be able to grade the project before the next semester.


The exam will open in the 'Assignments' section "RRY145 (ASM520) Stellar Physics Exam" at 8:30 on Thursday March 19th. It will close for uploads 13:00 sharp.

Contact details

Wouter Vlemmings,, tel. 031-772 5509 (OSO) / 6354 (Johanneberg)

Elvire De Beck,, tel. 031-772 5545
Wouter Vlemmings,, tel. 031-772 5509 / 6354

Luis Velilla Prieto,, tel. 031-772 5532

Elvire, Wouter and Luis have offices at Onsala Space Observatory.  They can however regularly be found in the offices at the 4th floor of the EDIT building at Johanneberg.

Aim of the course

Stars are central objects within astronomy: they are interesting objects in their own right, and they are important components of galaxies whose dynamics and history can be studied through observations of stars. In addition, essentially all of the elements in our universe have their origin inside stars. Stars are complex systems. The theory of stellar structure and evolution rests on many parts of physics: mechanics, hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, statistical physics, the most extreme examples of condensed matter physics, nuclear physics, atomic physics, and radiative transfer and spectroscopy. The course will provide a deep understanding of the workings of stars, and it will provide an excellent example of how applied physics is used to describe a complex phenomenon.



Course literature

  • Lecture notes posted here (in Files)
  • Exercises posted here (in Files)
    • The schedule for the exercises is given here.
  • Project work description
  • There is no dedicated course literature. Several relevant books exist, such as: An Introduction to Stellar Astrophysics, Francis LeBlanc, Wiley (2010). This is available on-line as an e-book at Chalmers Library.

Course design

General information about the course can be found at Chalmers Student Portal:

The course consists of lectures, exercise classes and project work, followed by a written examination.

The lectures will cover the following topics (in this order), although one topic is not necessarily one lecture:

  1. Background
  2. Equations of structure
  3. Equations of state
  4. Thermodynamics (brief)
  5. Polytropic models
  6. Nuclear reaction rates
  7. Nuclear processes
  8. Energy conservation
  9. Energy transport – radiation
  10. Opacity
  11. Energy transport – conduction
  12. Energy transport – convection (very brief)
  13. Stellar atmospheres
  14. Star formation
  15. Main-sequence evolution
  16. Solar neutrinos
  17. Stellar nucleosynthesis
  18. Post-main-sequence evolution
  19. Final stages

Details on the project work will be provided in a dedicated lecture. The problem solving is intended to help you prepare for the examination. The project work is a mandatory part of the course and will be evaluated separately. It will not be possible to pass the course without the project work.

The course will be evaluated using the standard procedure at Chalmers


Student representatives will be appointed in the beginning of the course. There will be a short meeting between teachers and student representatives in the middle of the course. There will be a questionnaire and a meeting after the course. More details will be posted on Canvas.

Student representatives

Alex Bökmark
Arturo Cevallos Soto
Johan Gustafsson
Per Hirvonen
Daniel Persson Ilonen

Changes made since the last occasion

No changes.

Learning objectives and syllabus

After completion of this course, the student should be able to:

  • describe what can be learned about stars and their evolution from observations
  • write the equations of stellar structure and explain them
  • derive the characteristic timescales of stellar evolution, and the characteristic temperatures, densities, and pressures in stellar interiors
  • describe radiative transport in stellar interiors
  • describe convection in a star and list the consequences of it for stellar evolution; derive under which conditions a star is convective
  • describe stellar atmospheres and how radiative transfer models are used to explain their properties
  • explain the base for the spectral- and luminosity classification of stars
  • describe the nuclear processes taking place in stellar interiors
  • derive temperature dependences of different nuclear burning processes, and the energy released
  • use a stellar evolutionary model to derive stellar characteristics
  • describe the evolutionary tracks for stars of different masses
  • analyze observational characteristics in terms of stellar physics
  • explain the role of stars in the chemical evolution of the universe
  • describe the end stages of stellar evolution: white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes

Link to the syllabus on Studieportalen.

Study plan

Examination form

Written examination (19/3) and project work (deadline 26/3). The project work can count for up to 10% bonus points on the exam.

Course summary:

Date Details Due