Centre for Continuing Education

Modern Astronomy Course: The Lives of Stars

Astronomy. Reach for the stars.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

This astronomy course will provide you with the context to understand current astronomical research, such as the recent exciting announcement of the detection of gravitational waves from coalescing black holes.

Through a series of lectures, demonstrations and the extraordinary images flowing from telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope, we will build a picture of each stage in the life cycle of a star.

Born in the interstellar gas clouds, stars enjoy a long maturity controlled by the mysteries of quantum mechanics, before dying, sometimes quietly and sometimes with unbelievable violence.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • describe the nature of stars and how they work
  • appreciate how quantum mechanics governs the behaviour of stars
  • describe the theories for the formation of stars and their solar systems, and the life cycle of stars
  • identify the origin of the elements
  • identify how astronomers use observations to construct theories of the universe
  • put new discoveries, such as gravitational waves, into the context of current astronomical knowledge.


Star types: A guided tour

We begin with a review of some basic concepts, then take a tour around the various types of stars.

Atoms and quantum mechanics: A gentle introduction

We take a look at the smallest constituents of matter; as we will see, the strange realm of quantum mechanics and subatomic particles governs the behaviour of stars

What makes a star?

We look at how stars work, and what keeps them shining

The Sun, a typical star

We compare what we’ve learned so far with observations of the star we can study best: our own Sun.

Star formation

We look at how stars form out of the giant interstellar gas clouds.

Stellar evolution

We look at what happens when stars run out of fuel, and examine the massive changes stars go through at the end of their lives.


We look at the violent ways that (some) stars end their lives; along the way, we discover the answer to how the heaviest elements are formed.

Stellar graveyards: White dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes

We look at the end products of stellar evolution: the remnants which are left behind.


Most stars have at least one companion; we look at how binary star systems work.

Late breaking news

We cover some topics of recent interest.

Star viewing at the Blue Mountains

You will have the opportunity to take part in a trainer lead evening of star viewing in the Blue Mountains. This visit to the Blue Mountains is optional and will be held on a Saturday, with the trainer to facilitate a discussion in-class on the possible date(s). Travel and accommodation expenses, should you choose to stay the evening, are not included in the price of this course.

Intended audience

Anyone with an interest in astronomy and stars who would like to know more about our universe.


No prior or assumed knowledge is required.

Delivery style

Delivered through a series of lectures, demonstrations, detailed course notes, and plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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