Barred spiral galaxy NGC 613

An Introduction to Astronomy:
Stars and Galaxies

Spring 2009


Presented by Helen Johnston and Geraint Lewis

"Stars and Galaxies" will begin on 16 September 2009: check listings in the Continuing Education web-site or brochure for enrolment information closer to the date.

Ever wondered what lies beyond our own solar system? Through lectures and demonstrations this course considers the different types of stars and their lives from formation to stellar graveyard. We look at how the elements come together to form galaxies, how galaxies warp space-time with their gravity, and how the universe formed in the Big Bang. An evening of star viewing in the Blue Mountains is included.

Course outline

    LectureLinksPDF versionAnimations

    1. Introduction and review of basic concepts

    We set the scene, showing where we are in the universe, and introducing concepts and terminology will need, such as spectra, magnitudes, radiation.
    Links SG1.pdf (6.2 Mb)  

    2. Characterising and classifying the stars

    We show what the spectra of stars look like, and how they are classified into a meaningful sequence.
    Links SG2.pdf (1.3 Mb)  

    3. The interstellar medium; and The Sun

    We look at the gas between the stars, the building blocks for everything else; and we look at our Sun, the nearest star.
    Links SG3.pdf (4.8 Mb) Granulation: gran_mov27M_99_crea.mpg (472 kb)
    Original from
    Coronal loops: (10.1 Mb)
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    Coronal mass ejection: c3april.mpg (3.3 Mb)
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    4. The evolution of the stars

    We look at how stars evolve as they age, and why the changing internal structure of a star leads to massive changes in its outward appearance.
    Links SG4.pdf (3.6 Mb) Star formation: disk.mpg (3.8 Mb)
    Original from Chris Tinney's home page
    Cluster collapse simulation: cluster4.avi (30.3 Mb)
    Original from Matthew Bate's animations

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

    We look at the objects that are the ultimate fate of stars, and discuss how we find stars that are no longer shining.
    Links SG5.pdf (2.4 Mb) Pulsar model: pulsar.gif (208 kb)
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    Formation of a millisecond pulsar: (9.2 Mb)
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    Binary pulsar: PulsarsCurrent320x256.mpg (3.3 Mb), PulsarsEvolution320x256.mpg (5.1 Mb)
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    6. Binaries, clusters and variables

    We look at special types of stars, and how we can use them as yardsticks for the universe.
    Links SG6.pdf (3.9 Mb) Spectroscopic binary: (948 kb)
    Original from
    Eclipsing binary: eclipsing.gif (288 kb)
    Animation by HMJ
    Supernova: saul_sm.qt (5.8 Mb)
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    X-ray sources: (1.8 Mb)
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    Cepheid variables: pulsate.mpg (536 kb)
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    Pulsars in 47 Tuc: 47tucmovie.mpg (9.3 Mb)
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    Cluster simulation: n12kmovie.mpg (8.3 Mb)
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    7. Our galaxy: putting the pieces together

    We look at how all these elements come together to make the Galaxy.

    8. Galaxies: normal galaxies to quasars


    9. Cosmology: the universe as a whole


    10. Gravitational lensing


There will be an evening of star-viewing at Mount Wilson on

Saturday, 17th October

We will have an extra viewing evening from the roof of the Physics building during the second half of the lecture on

Wednesday, 30th September (lecture 3)

(weather permitting)


Last updated 26 October 2009

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