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Stellar Dynamics



We will discuss stellar dynamics from a theoretical and computational perspective. The dynamics of systems of stars, or other objects that interact gravitationally (dark matter, planets, etc.) are described by Newtons laws of gravity. Exact theoretical analysis generally fails for systems with more than two objects, but for systems with a sufficiently large number of objects new theoretical principles become available. The hardest systems to understand consist of any number of objects between two and ‘many’. In this course we start with understanding two objects that orbit each other, to slowly increase the number of objects as we go along. Eventually we focus on approximate approaches to understand the dynamics of stars. Topics include force calculation techniques, integration of the equations of motion, potential theory; orbits in given potentials; the collisionless and the collisional Boltzmann equation; self-gravitating systems; the Jeans equations; dynamical friction, and dynamics of few body systems. Methods are applied to a wide range of astrophysical systems, such as the Solar system, triple stars, stellar clusters, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies.

Programme form

Lectures and assignments


Galactic Dynamics (second edition) Binney, J. & Tremaine S. ; Princeton Univ. Press, ISBN-13: 978-0-691-13027-0


Master Schedule 2013-2014

Form of examination

Homework and exam


The methods used in stellar dynamics are adopted from theoretical physics. The student is expected to have a fundamental understanding of statistical physics, (vector) calculus, electrodynamics, classical mechanics and should be able to program a computer.

More information

Lecturer: Prof.dr. S.A. (Simon) Portegies Zwart
Assistent: Cristobal Sifon Andalaft