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Physics of Stars

Spring 2013

Sławomir (Slavek) Ruciński, PhD, DSc
Professor Emeritus
Department of Astronomy and Astrophyscis
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Physics of stars
Stars? This must be something very simple...

An outline of a monograph lecture course in the Spring term of 2013 at the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre, 00-716 Warszawa, ul. Bartycka 18


Stars are the most readily observed objects in the Universe. They are the main material the galaxies are made of; they provide energy for almost all observable processes; they produced all elements that surround us (except hydrogen and helium); thanks to the Sun, our nearest star, life can thrive on Earth (as possibly on other planets in extra-solar planetary systems). And they are simple, very simple...

The lecture course will attempt to present stars as relatively uncomplicated objects governed by elementary if occasionally exotic physics. It will concentrate on essential properties of stars as single, isolated, gaseous, self-gravitating objects made of plasma, with interior densities and temperatures high enough for generation of copious amounts of energy through thermonuclear reactions.


The following subjects will be discussed in the 16 hour cycle of 8 lectures:

  1. Observations of stars. Measurables.
  2. Equilibrium states and time scales.
  3. Principal equations of stellar structure.
  4. Detailed processes. State of gas. Temperature and density regimes.
  5. Plane parallel atmospheres
  6. Simple stellar models. Polytropes. Homology relations.
  7. An overview of stellar evolution.
  8. Complications: Rotation, activity, binarity, winds


The first two lectures will be given on April 4th and 5th (Thursday and Friday) at 9:30-11:30.
Subsequent lectures will be given on Tuesdays and Thursdays of April 16th, 18th, 23rd and 25th at 9:30-12:30 (3 hours). Copies of Power-Point slides will be available for download after the lectures in the PDF format.


The course is based on a graduate-level course given at the University of Toronto.