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Sun, Stars and Planets [Level 2] 2015 - 2016
Dr David Clements
Course Aims: To become familiar with the structure and evolution of the Sun and other stars. To
become familiar with the key physical principles that determine the current state of the planets in
our own Solar System, and that allow us to detect and begin to characterise planets in other star
By the end of this course you should be able to:
• Describe the Sun’s internal structure using stellar structure equations, the nuclear generation of
energy in the Sun and how this energy is transported to the surface
• Understand and use the concepts of hydrostatic equilibrium and the Schwarzschild convective
stability criterion in stellar interiors
• Know the characteristics of the outer layers of the Sun (its atmosphere), the solar electromagnetic
spectrum and the solar wind
• Know and understand the basics of the life-cycle of stars (formation, main sequence life, and final
stages of evolution), and the use and interpretation of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram
• Know and use the concepts of magnitude, parallax and proper motion in stellar astronomy
• Describe the Galaxy as a collection of stars and their distribution in type and position
• Describe the current state of planets and smaller bodies in our own Solar System, including
internal structure, atmospheric structure and surface temperature
• Appreciate the wide range of physics and chemistry that determines the current state of planetary
and small body surfaces
• Predict surface temperatures for objects without atmospheres
• Know Kepler’s laws of planetary motion
• Describe the methods used to detect planets around other stars, including the limitations and
selection effects inherent in these methods
• Use observational data to derive orbital and other parameters for exoplanets
• Use information about exoplanets to predict their properties
• Discuss the current state of the search for life elsewhere in the universe, the physical properties
thought necessary for life, and the constraints on our current searches