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Stellar Explosions

Module PH2078

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of WS 2018/9 (current)

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

available module versions
WS 2018/9WS 2017/8WS 2010/1

Basic Information

PH2078 is a semester module in German or English language at Master’s level which is offered irregular.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Specific catalogue of special courses for nuclear, particle, and astrophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Biophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
150 h 30 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2078 is Hans-Thomas Janka.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


  • Observations and phenomenology of stellar explosions
  • Classification of supernova types
  • Basic knowledge of the evolution of massive stars towards final collapse
  • Fundamentals of astrophysical fluid dynamics
  • Neutrino processes in supernovae and hot neutron stars
  • Foundations of neutrino and radiation transport
  • Basic principles governing the duration, brightness and color of SN light curves
  • Radiation-matter interactions and the opacity of ejecta
  • Spectral formation processes
  • Physical processes during stellar collapse and explosion
  • Cosmic gamma-ray bursts, hypernovae, pair-instability supernovae, superluminous supernovae
  • Relativistic phenomena at high densities and extreme gravity
  • Production of gravitational waves in supernovae; observational possibilities

Learning Outcome

After successful participation in the module the student has attained the following abilities. The student can

  1. describe the theoretical and observational classification scheme of supernovae.
  2. explain the physical foundations of this classification.
  3. understand basic stellar properties and evolution towards the final stages.
  4. derive elementary scaling relations from differential equations of stellar structure.
  5. apply simple formulas to estimate the order-of-magnitude of relevant effects in exploding stars.
  6. explain the fundamental physics that plays a role in stellar explosions.
  7. evaluate the diagnostic potential of different observational channels to collect data for a better understanding of stellar explosions.
  8. can judge the important role of supernovae in astrophysics, nuclear physics, neutrino physics, and gravitational physics.


Theoretical Astrophysics (introductory module PH2080) is advantageous but not mandatory. Basic physics knowledge acquired at the bachelor level is highly recommended.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

VO 2 Stellar Explosions Janka, H. Müller, E. Fri, 14:00–16:00, PH HS3
and singular or moved dates

Learning and Teaching Methods

In classroom lectures the teaching and learning content is presented and explained in a didactical, structured, and comprehensive form. This includes basic knowledge as well as selected current topics from a very broad research field. Universal methodic and physics concepts are highlighted by cross referencing between different topics. Crucial facts are conveyed by involving the students in scientific discussions to develop their intellectual power and to stimulate their analytic thinking on physics problems. Regular attendance of the lectures is therefore highly recommended.

The presentation of the learning content is enhanced by problem examples and calculations that the students should work on on a voluntary basis. These examples are intended to deepen the students' understanding and to help their learning of the course material. They can be discussed with the teacher upon request.

The examples as well as regular self-study of personal notes from the lectures and of textbooks and recent review articles referenced in the course are an important part of the learning process by the students. Such post-processing and practising of the teaching content is indispensable to achieve the intended learning results that the students develop the ability of explaining and applying the learned knowledge independently.


Black board teaching, overhead slides, notes and online material, in some cases also projection of visualizations from laptop.


Übersichtsartikel (Scientific review articles):

  • "Neutrino-driven Explosions",  H.-Th. Janka, chapter in 'Handbook of Supernovae,' edited by A. Alsabti and P. Murdin (Springer,2017) (arXiv:1702.08825)
  • "Neutrino Emission from Supernovae", H.-Th. Janka, chapter in 'Handbook of Supernovae,' edited by A. Alsabti and P. Murdin (Springer,2017) (arXiv:1702.08713)
  • "The Status of Multi-Dimensional Core-Collapse Supernova Models",  B. Müller, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, Volume 33, id.e048 (arXiv:1608.03274)
  • "Spectra of Supernovae in the Nebular Phase",  A. Jerkstrand, chapter in 'Handbook of Supernovae,' edited by A. Alsabti and P. Murdin (Springer,2017) (arXiv:1702.06702)
  • "The Extremes of Thermonuclear Supernovae",  S.Taubenberger, chapter in 'Handbook of Supernovae,' edited by A. Alsabti and P. Murdin (Springer,2017) (arXiv:1703.00528)
  • "Combustion in thermonuclear supernova explosions",  F. Roepke, chapter in 'Handbook of Supernovae,' edited by A. Alsabti and P. Murdin (Springer,2017) (arXiv:1703.09274)
  • "Explosion Mechanisms of Core-Collapse Supernovae", H.-Th. Janka, Annual Review of Nuclear and Particle Science 62: 381 (arXiv:1206.2503)
  • "The Hans Bethe Centennial Volume (1996-2006)",  G. Brown, V. Kalogera, Ed van den Heuvel  (Physics Reports 442, 2007)
  • "The Physics of Core-Collapse Supernovae", S. Woosley, H.-Th. Janka (Nature Physics 1, 147, 2005)
  • "The Supernovae Gamma-Ray Burst Connection",   S. Woosley, J.S. Bloom (Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 44, 507, 2006)

Lehrbücher (Text books):

  • "Black Holes, White Dwarfs, and Neutron Stars",  S.L. Shapiro, S.A. Teukolsky (Wiley, NY, 1983)
  • "Computational Methods for Astrophysical Fluid Flow",  R.J. Le Veque, D. Mihalas, E.A. Dorfi, E. Müller  (Springer, Berlin, 1998)
  • "Teilchenastrophysik",   H.V. Klapdor-Kleingrothaus, K. Zuber (Teubner Studienbücher Physik, Stuttgart, 1997); available also in English: "Particle Astrophysics" (IoP, CRC Press, 1997)

Populär, aber z.T. gehobenes Nivau (Popular articles and books, partly above elementary level):

  • "Supernovae und Gammablitze", H.-Th. Janka (Springer Spektrum, Heidelberg 2011)
  • "Rätselhafte Supernovae",  W. Hillebrandt, H.-Th. Janka, E. Müller (Spektrum der Wissenschaft, Juli 2005, 36)
  • "How to Blow Up a Star",   W. Hillebrandt, H.-Th. Janka, E. Müller (Scientific American, October 2006, 43)
  • "Supernovaexplosionen und rasende Neutronensterne",  H.-T. Janka (Sterne und Weltraum, 01/2007)
  • "Supernovae und kosmische Gammablitze",  H.-Th. Janka, S. Klose, F. Roepke, (Sterne und Weltraum, 03/2011 und 04/2011)

Internet und Skript (Internet and script):


Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

There will be an oral exam of 30 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using Comprehension questions, reflection of simple formulas for the description of elementary relations, and sample calculations for order-of-magnitude estimates.

For example an assignment in the exam might be:

  • Description and explanation of the classification scheme of different types of supernovae.
  • Naming the most relevant neutrino reactions in supernova cores.
  • Application of scaling relations for explaining basic properties of massive stars.
  • Discriminating and estimating the fundamentally different energy sources of different types of supernovae.
  • Explaining the physical mechanisms of different types of supernovae.
  • Evaluation of the possibilities to obtain information on stellar explosions by measurements of different signals (electromagnetic radiation, neutrinos, gravitational waves).

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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