The Life and Death of Stars

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging Story-telling! I enjoyed this course very much. No, it's not the hardest-hitting science delivery, but it wasn't meant to be. As a survey of huge topics, it is very good. It introduces viewers to the life and death of stars, and makes sense (as far as we can make sense of it all) about the interrelationships among stars, galaxies, the universe and life. Before seeing reviews, I could imagine that the delivery of the content would rub some people the wrong way, but I thought it was fine. To me, it delivered appreciation, understanding and wonder.
Date published: 2021-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great professor Though I have no previous background in Astronomy, I really enjoyed the course. I was able to follow along and was able to learn many interesting concepts. The first few lectures can feel a bit slow and less interesting but the latter half of the course is definitely exceptional. I really like the professor and his teaching style. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2021-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very good title describing the subject of stars Very happy with this course; well presented too. Professor highly qualified.
Date published: 2020-12-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Quite basic if you have studied astronomy Very basic for those learned in the matter. Also, I think that more animations/images would have enhanced the quality of the course. The anthropomorphization of the star life cycle I think is somewhat overdone as well. Overall informative if you are a newbie to the subject, but somewhat slow.
Date published: 2020-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fascinating - presented in interesting manner fascinating - presented in interesting manner. Authoritative/
Date published: 2020-06-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Great Courses I think, therefore, I am I think, therefore, I am
Date published: 2020-04-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informational, but a little sleepy I bought this course about a month ago simply because I love Astronomy, Cosmology, the sciences in general; and I use to volunteer for the local Planetarium, and I had belonged to a regional Observers group. Expanding and refining my knowledge with courses like the aforementioned is a hobby. The content of the lectures thus far is informative and adds to some of the previous lecture series I have veiwed to date. The professor comes across a bit slow with a tone similar Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood. Anyways, the course is worth the time and investment.
Date published: 2020-03-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not so good in places Keeps referring to his children and pregnancy as if a sun gets pregnant and has children as well ....... very off putting wanted him to just speak about stars and star formation.
Date published: 2019-11-17
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The Life and Death of Stars
Course Trailer
Why the Stellar Life Cycle Matters
1: Why the Stellar Life Cycle Matters

View the life cycle of a star in its broadest context, seeing how stars serve as agents of alchemy, transforming the simplest element-hydrogen-into the panoply of heavier elements that compose life and all other material objects in the universe.

32 min
The Stars' Information Messenger
2: The Stars' Information Messenger

Discover that there is much more to light than what we can see with our eyes. Investigate the properties of light and the electromagnetic spectrum, which extends from gamma rays to radio waves. Then learn how astronomers read a star's spectrum to determine the star's elemental composition.

29 min
Measuring the Stars with Light
3: Measuring the Stars with Light

Uncover more information encoded in starlight, learning how color and patterns of emission and absorption reveal the surface temperature of a star and its motion relative to Earth. Examine the scientific laws that explain stellar spectra, and find out how stellar distances are measured.

31 min
Stellar Nurseries
4: Stellar Nurseries

Probe the places where stars begin their lives: stellar nurseries. Use what you've learned about light to interpret the incredible colors and sculpted shapes in glowing clouds of gas and dust. See how star death leads to a new generation of stars. Close with a virtual fly-through of the stellar nursery in the Orion Nebula.

28 min
Gravitational Collapse and Protostars
5: Gravitational Collapse and Protostars

Chart the stages of star birth in stunning astronomical images. From Bok globules and Herbig-Haro objects to protoplanetary disks, these phases develop as gravity brings together material within denser regions of a stellar nursery. Clumps of matter eventually collapse into stars, which often include surrounding planetary systems.

31 min
The Dynamics of Star Formation
6: The Dynamics of Star Formation

Hundreds of stars can form inside a single cloud of collapsing gas and dust. Zoom in on the intricate details of this process. First, watch a computer simulation of star formation. Then, see how double, triple, and other gravitationally bound combinations of stars arise.

27 min
Solar Systems in the Making
7: Solar Systems in the Making

Follow the formation of newborn planets as they jockey for position close to their parent stars. Computer simulations show how some planets can be ejected out of their solar systems. Such models suggest that our sun and its planetary system might have looked markedly different in the past than it does now.

30 min
Telescopes-Our Eyes on the Stars
8: Telescopes-Our Eyes on the Stars

Focus on the instruments that observe and measure stars: telescopes. Investigate the major types and the detectors they use to extract the maximum amount of information from starlight. Telescopes on Earth and in space can survey the entire range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

30 min
Mass-The DNA of Stars
9: Mass-The DNA of Stars

Learn how mass is like a star's DNA, as it determines all of a star's physical characteristics. Astronomers can measure a star's mass by observing another star in orbit around it. Explore the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which shows that stars of different masses fall into well-defined classes.

31 min
Eclipses of Stars-Truth in the Shadows
10: Eclipses of Stars-Truth in the Shadows

Investigate the remarkable usefulness of eclipses. When our moon passes in front of a star or one star eclipses another, astronomers can gather a treasure trove of data, such as stellar diameters. Eclipses also allow astronomers to identify planets orbiting other stars.

29 min
Stellar Families
11: Stellar Families

Survey the two major types of star clusters. Open clusters typically form within the disk of a galaxy and represent recent generations of stars, enriched in heavier elements. By contrast, globular clusters form a halo around the centers of galaxies and are some of the most ancient stars in the universe.

30 min
A Portrait of Our Star, the Sun
12: A Portrait of Our Star, the Sun

Explore the nearest star, the sun, in an imaginary voyage through its fiery photosphere down to the center. Discover the sun's rich inner structure, with strata ranging from the extremely hot and dense core-denser than solid lead-to the more rarefied outer layers.

30 min
E = mc2-Energy for a Star's Life
13: E = mc2-Energy for a Star's Life

Probe the physics of nuclear fusion, which is the process that powers stars by turning mass into energy, according to Einstein's famous equation. Then examine two lines of evidence that show what's happening inside the sun, proving that nuclear reactions must indeed be taking place.

30 min
Stars in Middle Age
14: Stars in Middle Age

Delve deeper into the lessons of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, introduced in Lecture 9. One of its most important features is the main sequence curve, along which most stars are found for most of their lives. Focus on the nuclear reactions occurring inside stars during this stable period.

30 min
Stellar Death
15: Stellar Death

Stars like the sun end as white dwarfs, surrounded by an envelope of expelled material called a planetary nebula. Explore the complicated and beautiful structure of these dying outbursts. Then investigate the spectacular end of the most massive stars, which explode as supernovae, forging the elements of life in their violent demise.

32 min
Stellar Corpses-Diamonds in the Sky
16: Stellar Corpses-Diamonds in the Sky

Analyze three major types of stellar remains. Low mass stars like the sun leave behind white dwarfs, composed of carbon in a compact diamond-like state. Heavier stars collapse into super-dense neutron stars. And stars weighing more than 20 solar masses end as bizarre black holes.

30 min
Dying Breaths-Cepheids and Supernovae
17: Dying Breaths-Cepheids and Supernovae

Stars vary in brightness during their final phases. Study two phenomena that allow astronomers to measure distances with great accuracy across vast reaches of space: Cepheid variable stars and white dwarf supernovae. Zoom in on the processes that produce these valuable cosmic yardsticks.

29 min
Supernova Remnants and Galactic Geysers
18: Supernova Remnants and Galactic Geysers

Explore amazing images of the remnants of supernova explosions, charting how these cosmic catastrophes unfold as if in slow motion. Expanding clouds of supernova debris can trigger new star formation nearby and even carve enormous chimney-like structures in a galaxy.

28 min
Stillborn Stars
19: Stillborn Stars

Follow the search for brown dwarfs-objects that are larger than planets but too small to ignite stellar fires. Hear about Professor Stassun's work that identified the mass of these elusive objects, showing the crucial role of magnetism in setting the basic properties of all stars.

29 min
The Dark Mystery of the First Stars
20: The Dark Mystery of the First Stars

Join the hunt for the first stars in the universe, focusing on the nearby "Methuselah" star. Explore evidence that the earliest stars were giants, even by stellar standards. They may even have included mammoth dark stars composed of mysterious dark matter.

29 min
Stars as Magnets
21: Stars as Magnets

Because stars spin like dynamos, they generate magnetic fields-a phenomenon that explains many features of stars. See how the slowing rate of rotation of stars like the sun allows astronomers to infer their ages. Also investigate the clock-like magnetic pulses of pulsars, which were originally thought to be signals from extraterrestrials.

29 min
Solar Storms-The Perils of Life with a Star
22: Solar Storms-The Perils of Life with a Star

The sun and stars produce more than just light and heat. Their periodic blasts of charged particles constitute space weather. Examine this phenomenon-from beautiful aurorae to damaging bursts of high-energy particles that disrupt electronics, the climate, and even life.

29 min
The Stellar Recipe of Life
23: The Stellar Recipe of Life

Survey the periodic table of elements, focusing on the elements that are vital to life. From carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen to phosphorous, copper, and zinc, virtually every constituent of life was forged in a star during some phase of its life cycle.

30 min
A Tale of Two Stars
24: A Tale of Two Stars

Close your introduction to stellar evolution by contrasting the life cycles of two markedly different stars: one like our sun and another 10 times more massive. Professor Stassun compares their histories to milestones in the lives of humans, bringing a personal dimension to the science of stars.

32 min
Keivan G. Stassun

Like us, stars are born, live their lives, and then die. Like us, the lives and deaths of stars represent a circle of life, the ashes of dead stars becoming the raw material for new generations and their systems of planets.


Vanderbilt University


University of Wisconsin, Madison

About Keivan G. Stassun

Dr. Keivan G. Stassun is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University. He earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was a postdoctoral research fellow with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope Program before joining the faculty at Vanderbilt. Professor Stassun's research on the birth of stars, eclipsing binary stars, exoplanetary systems, and the sun has appeared in the prestigious research journal Nature, has been featured on NPR's Earth & Sky, and has been published in more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. He also serves as host for Tennessee Explorers, a television show highlighting the work of scientists and engineers to inspire the next generation of scientific explorers. Professor Stassun is a recipient of the prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and a Cottrell Scholar Award for excellence in research and university teaching from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. In 2013, he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Stassun is also a national leader in initiatives to increase the number of underrepresented minorities earning doctoral degrees in science and engineering and has served as an expert witness to Congress in its review of approaches for increasing American competitiveness in these fields.

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