Omega Centauri from the Hubble Space Telescope

Physics 441/541
Stars and Star Formation
Spring 2018

Mondays and Thursdays
12:00 to 1:20 pm
SERC 203, Busch campus
Instructor: Saurabh W Jha


We will study the observed properties and physics of stars, including their internal structure, energy generation and transport, and their atmospheres. We will examine star formation, stellar evolution, and stellar remnants, including white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes.

Contact Information

Prof. Saurabh W Jha
Room 315, Serin Physics Building, Busch campus
Email: saurabh[at]
Phone: 848-445-8962 (email preferred)

Office hours: Wednesdays 3-4pm, or by appointment


The required textbook we will use is The Physics of Stars (2nd edition, 1999, Wiley) by A.C. Phillips.

Supplementary textbooks (not required) include Principles of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis by D. Clayton, and a brand new textbook Understanding Stellar Evolution by H. Lamers and E. Levesque, which you can download as a PDF free from on campus.


We will have roughly biweekly problem sets due on Thursdays. In working on the problem sets, you are encouraged to work in groups, though your submitted write-up should be your own. You must list your collaborators on the write-up. You are allowed to consult any outside sources (which must be cited), except that you may not examine problem set solutions from previous years of Physics 441 or other similar courses online. Late problem sets will be accepted with a 25% penalty until Friday evening. All problem sets are due on Sakai in PDF format.

Students enrolled in Physics 541 (the graduate level version of the class) will be required to do extra problems on the problem sets. These problems may be completed for extra credit for students in 441.

There will be one in-class midterm exam and a final exam scheduled by the university. There will also be a group project, where, in a group of two or three people, you will present a 30 minute lecture on a topic of your choice.

The final grade will be calculated from the problem sets (50%), midterm exam (15%), group project (10%), and final exam (25%). The lowest problem set grade will be dropped in calculating the final grade.

Schedule: Topics and Assignments

This schedule will be updated as the semester progresses.

Jan 18 (Thu)
physical and observational intro
Jan 22 (Mon)
Jan 25 (Thu)
simple stellar models: polytropes
Jan 29 (Mon)
equations of state
Feb 01 (Thu)
stellar atmospheres; ionization
PS 1 due
Feb 05 (Mon)
no class
Feb 08 (Thu)
no class
Feb 12 (Mon)
energy transport
Feb 15 (Thu)
PS 2 due
Feb 19 (Mon)
nuclear energy generation
Feb 22 (Thu)
Feb 26 (Mon)
solar neutrinos
Mar 01 (Thu)
stellar interiors; solar model
PS 3 due
Mar 05 (Mon)
stellar evolution
Mar 08 (Thu)
in-class midterm
Mar 12, 15
spring break
Mar 19 (Mon)
white dwarfs
Mar 22 (Thu)
Mar 26 (Mon)
deaths of massive stars
Mar 29 (Thu)
PS 4 due
Apr 02 (Mon)
binary star evolution
Apr 05 (Thu)
Apr 09 (Mon)
before the main sequence
Apr 12 (Thu)
no class
PS 5 due
Apr 16 (Mon)
group presentations 1, 2
Apr 19 (Thu)
group presentations 3, 4
Apr 23 (Mon)
group presentations 5, 6
Apr 26 (Thu)
group presentations 7, 8
PS 6 due
Apr 30 (Mon)
group presentations 9, 10
final exam to be scheduled


Topic List (to be modifed as the semester progresses)

Lectures 1-2. Physical and observational introduction to stars. Order of magnitude stellar structure.
Lecture 3. Simplified stellar interior models: polytropes.
Lectures 4-5. Equations of state. Stellar atmospheres; Boltzmann equation. Ionization; Saha Equation.
Lecture 6-7. Energy transport in stars.
Lectures 8-10. Nuclear energy generation in stars. Solar neutrinos.
Lectures 11-12. Stellar interiors; models of the Sun. Main-sequence and post-main-sequence stellar evolution.
Lectures 13-14. Endpoints of stellar evolution: white dwarfs. Electron degeneracy. Chandrasekhar limit.
Lectures 15-16. Late stages of massive stars; core-collapse supernovae. Stellar remnants: neutrons stars and black holes.
Lecture 17-18. Binary star evolution; close binaries; mass transfer. Accretion; X-ray binaries; novae; white dwarf supernovae.
Lecture 19. Star formation; pre-main-sequence stellar evolution. Hayashi track.

Potential topics for group presentations: Helio/asteroseismology. LIGO black holes and their progenitors. Population III stars. Metal-poor stars. Brown dwarfs. Stellar rotation/activity/age. Exoplanet host stars. Pulsars. Magnetars. Gamma-ray bursts. Stellar initial mass function. Stellar multiplicity. Stellar winds/mass-loss. Planetary nebulae. Numerical modeling (MESA). Stellar pulsation/variables. Standard candles (Cepheids, RR Lyrae, Mira). History of stellar classification.


Other Items

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Students with disabilities should consult the department policy.

Students will be held to the Rutgers policy on academic integrity. See also the department's page on academic integrity for graduate students.

Astrophysics at RutgersDepartment of Physics and AstronomyRutgers University

Last updated: March 30, 2018 swj