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Unit information: Stellar Structure and Evolution 301 in 2021/22

Unit name Stellar Structure and Evolution 301
Unit code PHYS34013
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Stancliffe
Open unit status Not open

120 credit points at Level I/5 in Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, Theoretical Physics or joint honours Physics and Philosophy.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit introduces the physics underlying the structure and evolution of stars, through a description of applicable nuclear physics, statistical mechanics and thermal physics.

Emphasis is placed on deriving simple models for the structures of different types of star and the processes of stellar evolution.


  • To introduce the physics that underlies the behaviour and evolution of stars, and show how these physical processes lead to stability of normal stars and the instability of some special types of stars including supernovae.
  • To relate the physics of the energy generation mechanisms in stars to terrestrial fusion experiments.
  • To explore how stars process primordial material into elements that are common in the Universe today.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Able to use the virial theorem and equations of hydrostatic equilibrium. Understand the importance of equations of state. Understand the different nuclear processes which occur in different mass stars. Understand the radiative and convective transfer of heat. Understand the origins of the chemical elements. Understand how the different masses of stars lead to different endpoints of stellar evolution.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

Assessment Information

Written, timed, open-book examination (70%) Coursework (30%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYS34013).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.