Astronomy 160

Stellar Astrophysics

Fall 2013

Instructor:  Prof. Geoff Marcy
Office:   Building D Hearst Field Annex
E-mail: gmarcy{at}

Office Hours:: Wed at 1 and Fri at 11, in Hearst Field Annex-roomm B26.

Class time:  12:30-2:00, Tue and Thu, Evans Room 3

Graduate Student Instructor

Discussion Sections: Monday 4-5 and Tuesday 4-5 in HFA room B1. GSI: Jesse Nims

Class Web Page:

I will use the class web site to post homework, solutions, and other course
information.  So please check regularly.

Text:"An Introduction to Stellar Astrophysics"by Francis LeBlanc

Optional Text:
"The Physics of Stars" by A.C. Phillips
"An Introduction to the Theory of Stellar Structure and Evolution" by Dina Prialnik


Class Overview:  This course is about the Physics of Stars, including their formation, structure, and their changes as they age. The course will include physics that govern the energy generation, the energy transport, and the eventual energy release from stars as light. The course will describe how the quantum physics of atoms and molecules govern the emission, absorption, and scattering of photons, ultimately producing the spectral energy distribution of light that emerges from a star. The course also covers, stellar oscillations and asteroseismology, accretions disks supernovae, neutron stars, and black holes. The course also covers the structure of brown dwarfs and planets. There will be at least two projects involving students writing computer code to simulate complex astrophysics.

   Lecture topics will follow the text by LeBlanc: Chapters 1-6.

Prerequisites:  Physics 7C


The Astronomy Department's Policy on Academic Misconduct is here.

Homework is due in class at 12:30 each Thursday, starting Sept. 5
Write your name and section number on each homework and please staple your sheets together.
The homework questions can be discussed with your classmates but must be written up individually.
Late homework will not be accepted. Your lowest homework grade will, however, be dropped in determining your final grade.

Exam Dates (midterms are held in class):

  • Midterm #1: Tue Oct. 1
  • Midterm #2: Tue Nov. 5
  • Final:  Fri Dec.20, 8-11am
  • You will be given a "cheat sheet" containing equations and physical constants for the exams
Please let me know immediately if you cannot attend one of the exams.

Course Topics:

  • Planck Function, Stellar Fluxes, Boltzmann and Saha Equations, Spectral Classification, H-R Diagram (Chap.1).
  • Star Formation: Dynamical Physics of Structure and Free-Fall (Chapt. 2)
  • Radiative Transfer in Stars: Propagation of Light and Formation of Spectra (Chap. 3)
  • Stellar Atmospheres (Chap. 4)
  • The Interiors of Stars (Chap. 5)
  • Nucleosynthesis and Stellar Evolution (Chap.6)
  • Special Topics: Asteroseismology, Accretions Disks, Supernovae, Neutron Stars, Brown Dwarfs, Gas Giant Planets, Rocky Planets
  • Special Projects: Numerical solutions to complex astrophysics situations.

Note:  Not all of the material in each of the assigned chapters can or will be covered in lecture.
You are, however, responsible for the material in the chapters.  It may be useful for the homework problems.