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Stellar Structure and Evolution


Admission requirements



Stellar observations and the quest for understanding stars have always been at the core of astronomy since ancient times. Stars are not only extraordinary physics laboratories, but they are also vital to our understanding of the life cycle of systems at all scales, such as planets, galaxies and the intergalactic medium. In this course, you will first learn the basic physics of stellar structure in all relevant physical regimes. Then, we will follow a journey through a star’s life where its structure changes as a function of time. We will only focus on isolated stars.

Course objectives

The goal of the course is to understand the structure and evolution of stars, and their observational properties, from the pre-main-sequence, through the main-sequence, and post-main-sequence phases, how this relates back to fundamental physical processes including the interaction of matter and radiation, thermodynamics and the equation of state of gasses, nucleosynthesis and the formation of elements, and to apply this understanding to a state-of-the-art code for stellar evolution, MESA.

After completion of this course, you will be able to answer quantitative and qualitative questions about a star’s interior structure and life path, when considering an isolated star, ignoring magnetic fields and rotation.

This means that after this course you will be able to:

  • Run and process the output of the MESA stellar evolution code

  • Recognise a star’s evolution stage from its observational appearance

  • Name the main uncertainties in the current knowledge of stellar structure and evolution

  • Write a clear and professional scientific report


See Astronomy master schedules

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Practice sessions

Assessment method

Passing grades are required in both the final exam and the homework.

Reading list

  • Stellar Structure and Evolution, Authors: Kippenhahn, R, Weigert, A, Weiss, A, Springer Verlag (recommended)


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.
Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturer: Prof.dr. S. Viti


Soft skills
In this course, the homework will train your scientific writing skills.