Nuclear astrophysics (2015)

Name of course: Nuclear astrophysics

ECTS credits: 5

Course parameters:
Language: English
Level of course: PhD course
Time of year: Spring 2015
No. of contact hours: 49
No. of hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: 140
Capacity limit: 20

Objectives of the course:

The course gives an overview of the formation of the chemical elements in the Universe in the Big Bang, in stars and in stellar explosions. After a brief description of how the abundances of chemical elements are determined through observations, we discuss nuclear reactions and the calculation of thermonuclear reaction-rates. We also discuss how the rates are measured in the laboratory. Then we take a look at nucleosynthesis in the Big Bang and go through the most important stellar burning stages, including the pp-chains, the CNO cycles, helium burning, and advanced burning stages. We also discuss explosive burning, including the s-process and r-process. Finally, we cover some solar-neutrino physics and high-energy cosmic-ray physics.

Learning outcomes and competences:

At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

  • Identify the main astrophysical processes responsible for the synthesis of the chemical elements in the Universe. Identify the most important observational methods used to determine the abundances of the chemical elements.
  • Describe the most important stellar burning stages in stellar evolution, account for their role in nucleosynthesis and identify associated astrophysical sites. This includes the pp-chains, the CNO cycles, helium burning, advanced burning stages and explosive burning stages, such as the s-process and r-process.
  • Make use of equations and graphs to explain central concepts of nuclear astrophysics, such as the Gamow window and resonant and non-resonant reactions.
  • Describe the most important experimental methods used to determine thermonuclear reaction-rates.
  • Carry out simple derivations of relevant equations describing the nuclear-physics processes in stars and apply these to specific problems.
  • Find relevant information, e.g., in the scientific literature, on a research problem/topic. Evaluate the information and convey your conclusions in writing and through oral presentation using scientific/academic terms and language.

Compulsory programme:

Five homework assignments and a final project (short written report + oral presentation)

Course contents:

Lectures 2x2 hours/week and exercises 3 hours/week


Completed BSc in physics

Name of lecturer:

Oliver Kirsebom

Type of course/teaching methods:

Lectures and exercises


Wick Haxton’s lecture notes supplemented by various scientific papers.

Course homepage:

Homepage has not been created yet

Course assessment:

Five homework assignments (50%) and a final project (50%).


Department of Physics and Astronomy

Special comments on this course:

The course responsible is Hans Fynbo.


Q3 F2015




For registration and for questions please contact Oliver Kirsebom, e-mail:




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Revised 20.06.2016