Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

PHYS3010 Stellar Evolution

Module Overview

This course is a showcase for how the various branches of physics come together to give rise to real life phenomena. Using the example of stars, we will revisit a wide range of different physics and see how the various ingredients interact and thus how all branches of physics play a role in creating the fundamental building blocks of the universe. The emphasis of the course is on the more theoretical aspects of physics. The course is compulsory for ‘with Astronomy’ students but offers a good opportunity for all Physics students who want to obtain a hands-on experience of ‘the bigger picture’ in physics.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • demonstrate clear insight into the underlying physical principles associated with all the key stages of stellar evolution from initial star formation within gas clouds in the Galactic plane, through the various stages of “stability,” to the final end products
  • describe how astrophysics brings together all branches of physics and thus allows us to understand the ‘big picture’ of physics
  • be able to solve order-of-magnitude problems on any part of the syllabus


- Overview of gravitational contraction and star formation, nucleosynthesis, virial theorem, stellar timescales. - Properties of matter and radiation: Ideal gas, electron and neutron degeneracy, blackbody radiation, ionization. - Heat transfer: Radiation transport, conduction, convection. - Thermonuclear fusion: Barrier penetration, reaction rates, hydrogen and helium burning, neutrino emission. - Stellar modelling: Equations of stellar structure, polytropes. - Stellar death: Supernovae, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes.

Learning and Teaching

Wider reading or practice50
Completion of assessment task18
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Follow-up work18
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

D. Prialnik (2009). An Introduction to the Theory of Stellar Structure and Evolution. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 20%
Final Assessment  80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: PHYS2001 AND PHYS2003 AND PHYS2006 AND PHYS2023 AND PHYS2024 AND PHYS1005

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings