ASTR 231 -- Gravitation and General Relativity

Fall 2022

This course will provide an introduction to classical general relativity, a generalized theory of gravity that reduces to Newtonian gravity is the weak gravity limit. The course will emphasize both analytic calculation and physical understanding.

The prequisites for this course are the 141-143 (or possibly 121-123) series and the 161-165 or 171-174 math sequences. AST111 or AST142 is strongly recommend and PHY235 taken before or concurrently is strongly recommend.

Class Time: Tues and Thurs 11:05 - 12:20 EDT Hutchinson Hall Room 473

[Zoom link for real time viewing and Panopto link for recorded lectures will be sent by email.]

Prof:     Eric Blackman, Bausch &Lomb 417,

     Office Hours: Thurs 12:45-2:15pm

TA:     Tristan Bachman, Bausch and Lomb Room TBA,   email:

     Office Hours/Problem Session: Friday 12:00pm, Room: TBA


The required course textbook is: "Gravity: An Introduction to Einstein's General Relativity" James B. Hartle.

Two other recomended books of interest:

"Modern General Relativity" (Mike Guidry)

"Introduction to General Relativity" (Bernard Schutz)


Part A: CORE MATERIAL (CHAPS. 1-9, most of the course):

1. Introduction: Gravitational Physics and Geometry as Physics

2. Space, Time and Gravity in Newtonian Gravity

3: Concepts of Special Relativity

4. Dynamics in Special Relativity

5. Gravity as Geometry

6. Characterizing Curved Spacetime

7. Geodesics

8. Geometry outside a Spherical Star

9. Tests of General Relativity in the Solar System


10. Astrophysical Examples of General Relativistic Dynamics

11. Gravitational Collapse and Black Holes

12. Astrophyscial Black Holes

13. Rotation in General Relativity

14. Rotating Black Holes

15. Gravitational Waves and Binary Mergers

16. Observational Cosmology

17. Cosmological Models


EXAM 1 (40% of grade): TAKE HOME EXAM. The exam will be open book and open notes but no interaction with other living people on the contents of the exam is allowed. (To be handed out Nov 2nd and due Nov 4th).

EXAM 2 (40%) a Take Home FINAL EXAM (To be handed out Dec 20 and due Dec 22); You can use the course book and notes during the final.

6 or 7 Problem Sets (20% of grade)


Problem Sets:

Problem sets and due dates will be distributed by email, and generally will be assigned biweekly and due on Fridays. Homework should be submitted online to the Dropbox work respository (link sent via Blackboard) by 7pm on the due date supplied.


Supplementary Material:

Supplement on Twin Paradox showing why there is no ambiguity in considering the problem from either twin's rest frame.

Supplement on Index Notation, Basis Vectors and Equation 5.83 of Textbook



Astronomy picture of the day archive

Astronomy and Physics Online Journal Publication Database (ADS)