Posted on Friday, March 07, 2014
By Kadri

Stellar Structure and Evolution by Rudolf Kippenhahn, Alfred Weigert, Achim Weiss
Second edition

Rating: 8/10

How to write the equation of state for stellar matter?
Which neutrinos have a role inside the stars?
What kind of instabilities can exist in a star and how do they differ from one-another?

You can find answers to these and other questions in this book.

Stellar structure and evolution are topics that are usually lightly touched upon in a general astronomy class, so that the over-all structure of the Sun for example is something that is understood by many in the simplest of terms – you can look at what the composition of the Sun is, which reactions take place and how is energy created in the Sun, how does the energy escape the core regions and how long it takes and how does this effect the star's structure and stability.

The evolution of the Sun is explained eve to high-school students and how stars form from a protostellar disk when gravity is pulling the matter together and as the central mass gets bigger and the temperature rises eventually it will reach a temperature where thermonuclear reactions start and a star is born. What happens afterwards of-course depends on the stars mass, so we know that stars with higher mass die young while stars with smaller masses survive for billions and trillions of years.

However usually one would have to take a separate course to find out more about the structure of stars and also about how they change as time goes by.
“Stellar Structure and Evolution” is a mathematical and theoretical look at stellar physics. It gives you access to the physics that is needed for finding specific solutions to such varied topics as the different moments in a stars life when it can and might for some reason contract – before entering the main sequence for instance, or when and why and how might a star undergo a collapse.

As the energy from stars comes from thermonuclear reactions, in order to understand what is happening in the stars, we have to understand the different reactions, what are the necessary initial conditions, how much energy is produced etc. and so also nuclear physics has a part in the book. Also as our closest star helps us somewhat in understanding the rest of the stellar population, a standard solar model is derived.

The book starts with the basic equations of stellar physics, continues with the problem of stellar evolution and the matter in stars, but it also presents simple models for stars and continues with a more in-depth look into the evolution of stars from the formation, main-sequence stage and to the end of a star's life. It also focuses on compact objects, stellar rotation etc.

The mathematical constructs used in the book would be understandable to advanced undergraduate or graduate students.

As a textbook I found this clear and concise, containing all the important topics for understanding how stars change over time and as such is an essential learning material for students of astrophysics, but also a good reference-work to fall back upon if something needs to be reminded.

Because of it's structure and the way the concepts are presented it also makes for a good textbook for independent study, however if you're looking for ways of also trying out your newly acquired knowledge, one has to come up with problems or specific cases oneself, as you won't find any numerical problems to solve for practice, but if one goes through the whole book step-by-step solving the equations for specific cases one might be interested in, it should suffice.

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