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Thread: Introduction to Stellar Evolution - Book Suggestions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2005

    Introduction to Stellar Evolution - Book Suggestions

    Hi all

    I'm a graduate school in physics and was recently asked if I knew a good book in stellar evolution. The guy has a degree in Chemistry and levels himself slightly above Scientific American.

    Does anyone know of/read a good book on stars, (birth,life,death) at or slightly above this level?

    Thanks a Million!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Scope is wider than what you're asking about, but that may be a plus for your friend: Astrophysics in a Nutshell, by Dan Maoz (Princeton University Press, 2007).

    OTOH, the level of the math may be a bit of a stretch for him (but that too may be a plus).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    For graduate students, I think a great book on stellar interiors and evolution (the two go together) is by Kippenhahn and Wiegert, called "Stellar Structure and Evolution". It is a research-level book written with great clarity and insight. It is mathematically intensive, so he'd need to be pretty comfortable with calculus, but if that's the level he likes, it is excellent at saying not just what happens and when, but also why.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    The Wild West
    James Kaler is very good. He is not afraid to go well above the lowest-common-denominator level in general audience science books.

    Cosmic Clouds: Birth, death, and recycling in the galaxy [1997] -- James Kaler

    Extreme Stars, At the Edge of Creation [2001] -- by James Kaler
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    The type of material you need to read on stellar evolution depends entirely on:
    (1) your level of mathematical and physics knowledge
    (2) Your precise goals in reading the books or resources, which can be anywhere from...... just getting a good idea of the field, through to that much more rigorous and much harder pathway to full understanding that characterizes the beginning professional astronomer.

    Here, I review some of the easier books which are still physically and mathematically rigorous, those introductory books which do not oversimplify matters to the degree that the exposition hinders the onwards pathway to becoming a proper astrophysicist!!
    (I am unable to recommend "popular-level" descriptive introductions, as I haven't read one for decades)
    After you have read one or more Very Easy "descriptive" books on Stellar Evolution at the 'popular science' level, how best to take the next step towards gaining a very detailed knowledge and physical understanding of stellar evolution?

    Here is a list of relatively easy (but rigorous) "introductory-to-intermediate level" books on Stellar Evolution & Stellar Structure, with the readership level of the individual books somewhere within the range of "lower undergraduate" through to "easy graduate texts". In other words, in these books you can expect to find graphs and algebra (but not millions of equations from cover to cover!) plus a modest amount of calculus, though with the maths and physics leavened with substantial amounts of descriptive material.

    These books are are readily understandable by the average amateur astronomer only if she/he has already studied a good year of rigorous maths and physics at the tertiary level. Advanced-level amateur astronomers will take to them quite easily if they have enough mathematics to be confident about:
    - algebra
    - the graphical display of functions and relations between variables
    - some elementary calculus and differential equations; an introductory university calculus course is a desirable prerequisite for some of the harder material in these books.

    These books are in my own personal library, and I use them to pursue an "on again and off again" course of study in the theory of stellar evolution::

    -"Stars and Stellar Evolution", by K.S. de Boer and W. Seggewiss, 2008,
    ISBN 978-2-7598-0356-9
    An excellent concise primer on stellar evolution. All the observational facts are here, but without bogging the reader down in the recondite physics of stellar interiors. This terse volume somewhat resembles an excellent set of university lecture notes, but it is also greatly padded out with ALL of the necessary details. It is not too maths heavy , and contains megatons of useful stellar data and HR diagrams! The good thing about this book is that it presents the intricate and non-simplified details of how various types of stars evolve, but mainly in terms of the Observables and their functional relations.....for instance: surface temperature, stellar mass, stellar luminosity, Color-magnitude diagrams, SEDs and spectra. The necessary equations are there, but the pages of this book are not loaded with complex physics and mathematics. Mind you, if you are only used to descriptive books on astronomy, it is still very far from being an easy read.

    - "The Life and Death of Stars", 2014, by Ganesan Srinavasan, Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-642-45384-7 .
    I really like this I can easily understand the physics and maths in it (My mathematics is OK, but I am no mathematician as my maths is still stuck at the mid-undergraduate university level). This is one of the easiest-to-read undergraduate-level courses in stellar evolution, and it is very understandable, as the physics and maths is pared down to the necessary minimum. Srinavasan says that he only assumes that you understand physics at about first-year university level, e.g. that you have understood the likes of "Halliday and Resnick".
    However, the author's somewhat simplified approach to the necessary physics and mathematics does not sacrifice scholarly rigour and sophistication; in this respect, Srinavasan's book is markedly superior to a lot of the other introductory (early undergraduate) astrophysics books, which are too often oversimplified to the extent that the simple level of the exposition hinders the future progress of the student's understanding.

    - "Unsolved Problems in Stellar Evolution", 2000, edited by M.Livio, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 052178091-8 .
    An excellent course in the basics of stellar evolution, without any over-simplification. Quite a lot of the text is descriptive, but the text is complex and physical in orientation, and it is fundamentally very highbrow and "technical" in content.
    It mainly uses graphs rather than equations to display numerical relations, so this makes it relatively accessible, even for super-advanced amateur astronomers and for undergraduates in the physical sciences.
    See madbadgalaxyman's review of this book at (American)

    - "Introduction to the Theory of Stellar Structure and Evolution", 2010/2011, 2nd edn, by Dina Prialnik, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-86604-0 .
    This book is a well-regarded textbook on the physical theory of stellar interiors, here reduced to its basics.....but even the basic physics of stellar interiors is still hard (unless you are very conversant with physics!).

    - "Evolution of Stars and Stellar Populations", 2005 , by Salaris and Cassisi, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN: 978-0-470-09220-0
    An essential reference for the intermediate-to-advanced student of stellar astronomy, describing the modern approach to stellar evolution. The sophisticated exposition in this book stands in marked contrast to the often out-of-date and/or oversimplified material found in many lower-undergraduate astronomy textbooks. At least Seventy percent of this book sticks to observables such as Color-Magnitude diagrams, graphs of scaling relations, and spectra. While this book is usually regarded as a "graduate level" or "beginning professional astronomer" text, this work is so clear and observationally-oriented that the resolute physics/maths undergraduate or the Super-Advanced Amateur Astronomer can (at least with some struggle!) understand large sections of it.
    See madbadgalaxyman's review of this book at (American)

    - "Stellar Spectral Classification", 2009, by Richard O. Gray and Christopher J. Corbally, Princeton Series in Astrophysics, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-12511-4
    This book is literally "The Bible" of stellar spectra and stellar spectral classification. This massive and comprehensive and scholarly work is an essential reference for all optical and near-infrared astronomers. This book explains the current iteration of the standard MK System of Classification of the spectra of stars, and it contains a comprehensive collection of stellar spectra , with detailed explanatory information on the many stellar types, including spectra and explanations of most of the recently-discovered stellar and sub-stellar types (e.g. the L & T dwarf classes, and brown dwarfs). Extreme and rare stars like O2/O3 stars and Wolf-Rayets and LBVs also get a much greater coverage than in earlier references, reflecting today's greater knowledge of these "superstars". This work somewhat resembles a supercharged and super-extended version of Kaler's popular-level book on Stellar Spectra.....and it is much more up-to-date! Because the Spectral Classification of Stars does not have to involve lots of hairy physics and mathematics, this is an area of professional astronomy in which amateur astronomers can become highly competent.

    - "An Introduction to Modern Stellar Astrophysics" by Dale A. Ostlie and Bradley W. Carroll

    I have this book, but I have only read 30 percent of it, so I am unsure as yet if I can recommend it. This tentative review records my initial impressions of this work.

    This is a "basic to early-intermediate level" quantitative/numerical/physical textbook on stellar structure and evolution, at the undergraduate level. In other words, it assumes an absolute minimum of a good Australian Year 12 advanced maths & physics, though in reality a good First Year University maths and physics would be better preparation for the reader. Mercifully, there is also significant descriptive material to leaven the equations.

    At face value, this is a typical "American textbook -style" introduction to the basics of stellar astrophysics, and it is suitable for people with a physics/maths orientation; in other words, suitable for those people who are comfortable with equations and graphs and who have done at least an introductory calculus course (with a few differential equations). The authors write: "Our goal in writing this book was to open the field of modern astrophysics to the reader by using only the basic tools of physics". Those sections that I have read engage in the maximum amount of 'handholding' for the reader, and the authors explain astrophysics in a style and simplicity which makes it (hopefully) accessible to the numerate "everyman" who has at least some physics and maths.
    The mathematics and physics and the arguments are indeed simplified and reduced to their absolute essentials.....which has the significant drawback that if the reader wants to go further and eventually to become a senior-undergraduate to graduate Level astrophysicist, he/she will have to restudy these topics in much greater breadth and detail. Therefore, I warn here that astronomy textbooks that are explicitly designed for beginning undergraduates, often tend to oversimplify matters in order "to ease your passage into" astrophysics , thereby hindering the future progress of the reader's understanding. In summary, Ostlie and Carroll are bravely attempting to "gently ease the reader into" the inevitably difficult field of astrophysics!

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