Astronomy 252:  Stellar Structure and Evolution (Spring 2013)

InstructorEliot Quataert (Astronomy and Physics Departments, UC Berkeley)

MESA Guru:   Josiah Schwab

Time & Place:   MW 10:30-12 B1 HFA

Office Hours:   For graduate courses, I don't hold separate office hours.  Instead, I encourage you to come by and talk to me at any point with questions.  You can also email me to arrange a time to meet.  Josiah will be holding MESA TALC to help with questions about using MESA (see below). 


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, and the properties of compact objects. The course will emphasize physical understanding and basic principles. No previous coursework on stars is required.


Weekly lectures.  There will be some problem sets, roughly every other week.  Problem sets will include numerical calculations (e.g., solving ODEs).  We will also make extensive use of the publicly available stellar evolution code MESA.  Each student will be required to give a final presentation on an advanced topic.  For those taking the course for credit, your grade will be determined by your HW and presentation.   Auditers are welcome to attend.

A list of topics, including readings and suggestions for presentations, can be found here.

Problem Sets

Problem sets will include order of magnitude estimates and analytic and numerical calculations.  In addition, we will make  extensive use of MESA (Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics), a state of the art open source 1D (spherically symmetric) stellar evolution code.   The reasons for doing this are:   1.  Using MESA and understanding the results using analytic and order of magnitude calculations will significantly improve your understanding of the structure and evolution of stars.   2.   There are many open source and/or publicly available codes for astrophysics.   Learning to utilize these codes in your research will significantly increase the range of problems you can tackle.    This is mostly a matter of getting comfortable with certain aspects of programming.   Using MESA in this course will be a good introduction to doing this.

Instructions for using and downloading MESA are available here (a synthesis from Josiah of information from the MESA websites that contains the key information you need for this course; this includes links to more detailed information about MESA, should you desire it).   Please read these instructions carefully.

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