Astrophysics of Interacting Binary Stars

an advanced course (5 credits)

at the Space Physics and Astronomy research unit, University of Oulu

The course period: October 26 – December 9, 2020

Lectures, exercise and practical sessions take place usually on Monday and Wednesday at 12-14 and Thursday at 14-16, see Peppi for detail.

The course is lectured in English

Teacher: Vitaly Neustroev, MA 302, vitaly[-at-]neustroev.net

Course content:

The course will provide the necessary understanding of the physics of binary stars with black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs, mass-transfer, chemistry and the importance of binary stars and populations of binaries to modern astrophysics.

Theoretical and practical considerations will be supplemented with the home exercises which constitute the important part of the course.


  • Interacting Binary Stars (1985) – Edited by J.E. Pringle and R.A. Wade / CUP. ISBN 0 521 26608 4.
  • Cataclysmic Variable Stars (2003) – Brian Warner / CUP. ISBN 0 521 54209 X.
  • Accretion Power in Astrophysics (3rd edition, 2003) – J. Frank, A. King and D. Raine / CUP. ISBN 0 521 62957 8.
  • Cataclysmic Variable Stars – How and Why They Vary (2001) – Coel Hellier / Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 1852332115.
  • I will also give references to original papers where useful.


  • Lecture 1: October 26: Introduction: Binary Stars and Fundamental Stellar Parameters


  • Lecture 2: October 28: How does mass transfer occur? Roche lobe and Roche-Lobe overflow. Accretion Disks. Formation of an Accretion Disk.

    PDF * Link to FITDisk
    HomeWork 1 [due November 4, must be returned before the lecture]

  • Lecture 3: November 02: Energetics of accretion. Accretion disk properties.


  • Lecture 4: November 05: The angular momentum problem. Viscous accretion disks. Accretion Disk Temperature Structure. Accretion Disk Spectrum.


  • Lecture 5: November 09: Accretion Disk: Surface Density Evolution, Vertical Structure, Thickness, Tidal Limitation. Boundary Layer.


  • Lecture 6: November 11: Bright spot. Stream-disk overflow. Viscosity in an accretion disk. Anomalous viscosity – alpha disk model. The magneto-rotational instability. Properties of the thin, steady-state disc. Timescales.

    HomeWork 2 [due November 25, must be returned before the lecture]