Introduction to the Physics and Properties of Stars


During first year undergraduate physics most students often get the impression that physics is made up of distinct disciplines with little or no connection: Mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, atomic physics, quantum physics e.t.c. each dealing with a separate phenomena. However, by studying astrophysics, you will be accorded with a unique opportunity to appreciate that to understand many of the complex structures, systems and processes that exist in the natural world, one requires a combination of knowledge from the different fields of physics, and not just any single field. It is for this reason, amongst other reasons, that astrophysics has become an important subject of much interest to many students, that provides an ideal framework for demonstrating the power and elegance of physics. In studying stars for example, astrophysics require combined knowledge from nuclear physics, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, electrodynamics, statistical mechanics and quantum theory. In this course, we will focus on some of the important properties of stars and the physics governing the state, behavior and evolution of stars. However, because stars are so far away the only source of information available to astrophycists is coded in the light received at a telescope. This reduces the problem of understanding the properties and physical laws governing the stars to that of extracting as much information as possible from their emitted light, and as such, requires some novel astrophysical tools of trade.

The light received from our galaxy, the Milky Way for example, and other galaxies scattered throughout the universe, comes from a myriad of stars of all ages and masses- and hence different chemical compositions and a wide range of physical properties- that are contained in the host galaxies. Studying of stars is therefore central to understanding galaxies in particular and the universe in general, since galaxies form the basic building blocks of the universe. Furthermore, many astrophysical studies indicate that about 95% of the luminous matter in the universe is contained inside stars, and hence proper knowledge about how stars shine, their structure, how they evolve in time, as well as the effect of their evolution on the chemical composition of galaxies is necessary to understand the universe. Indeed, therefore, in the absence of a solid understanding of the Physics and Properties of Stars, our cosmological calculations and predictions of the universe would either be incomplete or completely WRONG! 

The aim of this course is to introduce the learner to the main properties of stars and the governing physics, in relation to the basic theory of stellar evolution that will serve as a crucial introduction to advanced courses in stellar evolution at postgraduate level.

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spa401_study-guide2017.pdf87.55 KB

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