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Stellar Structure and Evolution


Admission requirements

Bachelor in Astronomy or equivalent


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 schedule

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 successfully 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 to 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

  • Written exam

  • Homework assignments

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)


As a student, you are responsible for registering on time, i.e. 14 days before the start of the course. This can be done via Mystudymap. You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2. Please note: late registration is not possible.

Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from July; registration for courses in the second semester is possible from December. First-year bachelor students are registered for semester 1 by the faculty student administration; they do not have to do this themselves. For more information, see this page.

In addition, it is mandatory for all students, including first-year bachelor students, to register for exams. This can be done up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the exam or up to five calendar days in case of a retake exam. You cannot participate in the exam or retake without a valid registration in My Studymap.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturer: Dr. J.A. Hodge


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