Astronomy 160:  Stellar Physics (Fall 2014)

InstructorEliot Quataert (Astronomy and Physics Depts, UC Berkeley)
  C13 Hearst Field Annex
Phone:  642-3792 (email is preferable unless it is urgent)
Email:  eliot{at}

Time & Place:   T, Th 2-3:30 in B1 Hearst Field Annex

Graduate Student Instructor    Sean Ressler:  smressle{at}; ??? Hearst Field Annex

Discussion Sections:  W 12-1 and 1-2 in 55 Evans  (The first sections are Wed 9/3)

Office Hours:  E. Quataert:  ??, TALC, by appt
                         J. Schwab:  ?? , TALC, by appt
                         The ?? and ??  office hours will be held in B-26 Hearst Field Annex

TALC:   this is a large collaborative "office hour" where students can discuss the homework assignments in a group setting.   The GSI will be at TALC to help students with questions about the homework assignments.   In addition to group work, students may discuss difficulties in their conceptual understanding of the material with their peers and the GSI.  Based on previous experience, students do better in the course and understand the material better when they work on the problems by themselves before coming to TALC. 

TALC will be held from 5-7 on Wed in B5 Hearst Field Annex starting 9/3

Class Web Page:

Texts:  The Physics of Stars by A. C. Phillips

Class Description:

Stars are the building blocks of galaxies and play a central role in the evolution of structure in the universe, in the nucleosynthesis of most elements, in the formation of compact objects (white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes), and as tools for measuring cosmological distances (e.g., Cepheids and Type 1a SN).  This course will cover the observations and physics of stars. Primary topics will include the structure of self-gravitating objects, energy transport in stars, nuclear fusion in stars, stellar evolution, the birth of compact objects, and stellar oscillations.

The course will emphasize physical understanding and basic principles. No previous coursework on stars is required.  The course will make significant use of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and some aspects of fluid mechanics, but I will try to review the key physics when necessary.

A comment:  The books are in SI units.  Astronomers, however, use cgs units and I will use cgs units in this class.  I appreciate that this it is a little inconvenient, but after a small adjustment, my experience is that students get used to cgs (the only signficant differences are in electromagnetism where cgs is actually far more convenient than SI).  We will also make use of convenient units such as eV for energy (= 1.6 10-12 ergs = 1.6 10-19 J).

To help you w/ the transition to cgs, here is a list of the fundamental constants in cgs units.


If you miss an exam, you will receive zero credit for that portion of the course-grade.  No make-up exams will be given.  In exceptional cases (e.g., you miss the midterm for a well-documented medical reason), I will not count the midterm when calculating your grade.  If you miss the final exam for a very good well-documented reason, your grade will be an incomplete.

Please let me know immediately if you cannot make one of the exams.

Homework:  Homework is due at 4 PM on Fridays starting Fri 9/5.  It should be placed in the special box marked Astro 160 next to B-30 in Hearst Field Annex (this is across from Dexter's office). Do not place your homework in any of the many other boxes. Write your name and section (date & time) on each homework and staple your sheets together.  The homework questions can be discussed with your classmates but you must write up your solutions individually. Late homework will not be accepted (the HWs will be picked up by the grader soon after 4 PM on Fri). Your lowest homework grade will, however, be dropped in determining your final grade.

Readings for the course are available here.  

Section Worksheets: