Star birth

Modern Astronomy:
Lives of the Stars

Spring 2016


Presented by Helen Johnston

"Lives of the Stars " began October 2016: check the Continuing Education web-site for enrolment information.

Born in the interstellar gas clouds, stars enjoy a long maturity controlled by the mysteries of quantum mechanics, before dying, sometimes quietly and sometimes with unbelievable violence. Through lectures, demonstrations and the extraordinary images flowing from the Hubble Space Telescope, this series builds a picture of each stage in the life cycle of a star. An evening of star viewing in the Blue Mountains is included. Copy of Mt Wilson handout

Sources for images and animations are given at the end of each lecture and on the "Links" page.

Course outline

    LectureLinks PDF versionAnimationsPodcast

    1. Star types: a guided tour

    We begin with a review of some basic concepts, then take a tour around the various types of stars.
    Lecture 1 links LS1-Tour.pdf (12 Mb) Black hole binary Lecture 1

    2. Atoms and quantum mechanics: a gentle introduction

    We take a look at the smallest constituents of matter; as we will see, the strange realm of quantum mechanics and subatomic particles governs the behaviour of stars.
    Lecture 2 links LS2-QM.pdf (3.8 Mb)   I wasn't able to edit this recording, so you'll have to skip the break
    Lecture 2

    3. What makes a star?

    We look at how stars work, and what keeps them shining.
    Lecture 3 links LS3-what-makes-a-star.pdf (4.3 Mb)   Lecture 3

    4. The Sun: a typical star

    We compare what we've learned so far with observations of the we can study best: our own Sun.
    Lecture 4 links LS4-Sun.pdf (20 Mb) • Granulation: gran_mov27M_99_crea.mpg (472 kb)
    • Solar oscillations: movie1.mpg (3.8 Mb)
    • Coronal loops: (10.1 Mb)
    • Coronal mass ejection: c3april.mpg (3.3 Mb)
    • Formation of sunspots: (1.9 Mb)
    • Aurora formation: (8.5 Mb)
    From here on, I wasn't able to edit recordings, so you'll have to skip the break
    Lecture 4

    5. Star formation

    We look at how stars form out of the giant interstellar gas clouds.
    Lecture 5 links LS5-star-birth.pdf (11.4 Mb) • Spiral structure: Spiral1.gif (140 kb)
    • Binary formation: (21.3 Mb)
    • Cluster collapse: cluster4.avi (30.3 Mb) (both from Matthew Bate's animations)
    Video didn't record, but sound is OK
    Lecture 5

    x. Binaries

    Most stars have at least one companion; we look at how binary star systems work.
    Lecture x links LSx-binaries.pdf (5.6 Mb) • Elliptical orbits: circ1.gif (208 kb), ellipse1.gif (208 kb), ellipse2.gif (208 kb)
    • Relative orbits: relative.gif (460 kb)
    • Spectroscopic binary: (948 kb)
    • Eclipsing binaries: eclipsing1.gif (212 kb), eclipsing2.gif (304 kb)
    Lecture x

    6. Stellar evolution

    We look at what happens when stars run out of fuel, and examine the massive changes stars go through at the end of their lives.
    Lecture 6 links LS6-evolution.pdf (5.4 Mb) • Formation of the Helix Nebula: Helix.mpg (1.1 Mb) (from
    • Sun becoming a red giant: (12 Mb) (from
    Lecture 6

    7. Supernovae

    We look at the violent ways that (some) stars end their lives; along the way, we discover the answer to how the heaviest elements are formed.
    Lecture 7 links LS7-SNe.pdf (7.2 Mb) • Core collapse: smv1.mpeg (1.9 Mb) (from
    • SN1987A rings geometry: (4.1 Mb) (from
    Lecture 7

    8. Stellar graveyards: white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes

    We look at the end products of stellar evolution: the remnants which are left behind.
    Lecture 8 links LS8-graveyards.pdf (8.5 Mb) • Pulsar: pulsarSmall.gif (172 kb)
    • Double pulsar: PulsarsCurrent320x256.mpg (3.3 Mb), PulsarsEvolution320x256.mpg (5.1 Mb) (from
    • Stars near Galactic centre: motions.avi (2.6 Mb) (from
    • Stellar orbits in the central parsec: videos_2016_Orbits.mp4 (1.7 Mb) (from
    Lecture 8

    10. Late breaking news

    We cover some topics of recent interest.
    Lecture 10 links LS10-interacting-binaries.pdf (8.5 Mb) • Gravitational wave: gw-waves-wave.gif (4.4 Mb) (from )
    • Interferometer: ligo20160211v6.m4v (72 Mb) and Colliding black holes: ligo20160211v10.m4v (85 Mb) (both from
    Lecture 10


    Last updated 9 January 2017

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