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An Introduction to the Theory of Stellar Structure and Evolution / Edition 1

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Overview

Using fundamental physics, the theory of stellar structure and evolution can predict how stars are born, how their complex internal structure changes, what nuclear fuel they burn, and their ultimate fate. This textbook is a stimulating Introduction for students of astronomy, physics, and applied mathematics, taking a course on the physics of stars. It uniquely emphasizes the basic physical principles governing stellar structure and evolution.

This second edition contains two new chapters on mass loss from stars and interacting binary stars, and new exercises. Clear and methodical, it explains the processes in simple terms, while maintaining mathematical rigour. Starting from general principles, this textbook leads students step-by-step to a global, comprehensive understanding of the subject. Fifty exercises and full solutions allow students to test their understanding. No prior knowledge of astronomy is required, and only a basic background in undergraduate physics and mathematics is necessary.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The unique feature of this book is the emphasis it places, throughout, on the basic physical principles governing stellar evolution. The processes are always explained in the simplest terms, while maintaining full mathematical rigour … This textbook provides a stimulating introduction for undergraduates in astronomy, physics, planetary science, and applied mathematics who are taking a course on the physics of stars. Because this book requires only basic undergraduate physics and mathematics and no prior knowledge of astronomy it may be read by advanced amateurs as well." - Orion

"Here we have a first-class textbook that spells out in a clear and methodical way the principles that underlie the life cycles of stars and the physics of their interiors. … The host of student exercises in this book, plus the useful worked answers, ensure that any dedicated physics or mathematics undergraduate can, with some effort, understand what is going on." - David Hughes, New Scientist

"To my mind, this is the first book to be both a candidate for the title of classic and at the same time suitable for undergraduates … The approach is very different from that of most textbooks on stars … Throughout the book, the emphasis is on understanding physical principles, and there are well-designed exercises scattered through the text, relating to material that has just been covered; full solutions are clearly set out in an appendix … This … is a book that I can strongly recommend as a suitable textbook to anyone teaching a course in stellar structure, at advanced undergraduate or beginning graduate level … Any undergraduate who masters this book will not only be well prepared to undertake graduate work in the area but will also understand his/her other physics courses better. An excellent book, which certainly deserves to become a classic." - Robert Connon Smith, The Observatory

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521659376
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2000
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 6.97 (w) x 9.96 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Dina Prialnik is a Professor of Planetary Physics at Tel Aviv University. Her research interests lie in stellar evolution; the structure and evolution of cataclysmic variables, comet nuclei and other small Solar System bodies; and the evolution of planets.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Observational background and basic assumptions 1
1.1 What is a star? 1
1.2 What can we learn from observations? 2
1.3 Basic assumptions 6
1.4 The H-R diagram: a tool for testing stellar evolution 9
2 The equations of stellar evolution 15
2.1 Local thermodynamic equilibrium 16
2.2 The energy equation 17
2.3 The equation of motion 19
2.4 The virial theorem 21
2.5 The total energy of a star 24
2.6 The equations governing composition changes 26
2.7 The set of evolution equations 29
2.8 The characteristic timescales of stellar evolution 30
3 Elementary physics of gas and radiation in stellar interiors 35
3.1 The equation of state 36
3.2 The ion pressure 38
3.3 The electron pressure 39
3.4 The radiation pressure 43
3.5 The internal energy of gas and radiation 44
3.6 The adiabatic exponent 45
3.7 Radiative transfer 48
4 Nuclear processes that take place in stars 53
4.1 The binding energy of the atomic nucleus 53
4.2 Nuclear reaction rates 56
4.3 Hydrogen burning I: the p-p chain 59
4.4 Hydrogen burning II: the CNO bi-cycle 62
4.5 Helium burning: the triple-[alpha] reaction 63
4.6 Carbon and oxygen burning 65
4.7 Silicon burning: nuclear statistical equilibrium 67
4.8 Creation of heavy elements: the s- and r-processes 68
4.9 Pair production 70
4.10 Iron photodisintegration 70
5 Equilibrium stellar configurations - simple models 72
5.1 The stellar structure equations 72
5.2 What is a simple stellar model? 73
5.3 Polytropic models 74
5.4 The Chandrasekhar mass 79
5.5 The Eddington luminosity 81
5.6 The standard model 82
5.7 The point-source model 86
6 The stability of stars 90
6.1 Secular thermal stability 90
6.2 Cases of thermal instability 92
6.3 Dynamical stability 95
6.4 Cases of dynamical instability 97
6.5 Convection 98
6.6 Cases of convective instability 101
6.7 Conclusion 104
7 The evolution of stars - a schematic picture 106
7.1 Characterization of the (log T, log [rho]) plane 107
7.2 The evolutionary path of the central point of a star in the (log T, log [rho]) plane 111
7.3 The evolution of a star, as viewed from its centre 115
7.4 The theory of the main sequence 118
7.5 Outline of the structure of stars in late evolutionary stages 124
7.6 Shortcomings of the simple stellar evolution picture 128
8 The evolution of stars - a detailed picture 131
8.1 The Hayashi zone and the pre-main-sequence phase 132
8.2 The main-sequence phase 138
8.3 Solar neutrinos 143
8.4 The red giant phase 146
8.5 Helium burning in the core 151
8.6 Thermal pulses and the asymptotic giant branch 155
8.7 The superwind and the planetary nebula phase 160
8.8 White dwarfs - the final state of nonmassive stars 164
8.9 The evolution of massive stars 170
8.10 The H-R diagram: Epilogue 173
9 Exotic stars: supernovae, pulsars, and black holes 176
9.1 What is a supernova? 176
9.2 Supernova explosions - the fate of massive stars 180
9.3 Nucleosynthesis during supernova explosions 184
9.4 Supernova progenies: neutron stars - pulsars 187
9.5 Very massive stars and black holes 191
9.6 The luminosity of accretion and hard radiation sources 192
10 The stellar life cycle 195
10.1 The interstellar medium 195
10.2 Star formation 196
10.3 Stars, brown dwarfs, and planets 199
10.4 The initial mass function 203
10.5 The global stellar evolution cycle 208
App. 1 The equation of radiative transfer 215
App. 2 Solutions to all the exercises 223
App. 3 Physical and astronomical constants 249
Bibliography 251
Index 255
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