8.224 Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & Astrophysics

Spring 2003

Galactic center flicker indicates black hole.
In this image taken by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, the bright dot near the center was seen to flicker and brighten dramatically for a few minutes. Many astronomers believe this provides additional evidence that a black hole does indeed reside at our Galaxy's center. (Image courtesy of F. Baganoff, MIT as presented on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day web site.)

Course Highlights

Can I see a black hole at all? If I can see it, what does a black hole look like? Does it look black? What does it feel like to fall toward a black hole? 8.224 Exploring Black Holes investigates these and many other questions using elementary calculus. The website includes assignments, examslecture notes, videos, and a description of the end-of-term collaborative research project.

Course Description

Study of physical effects in the vicinity of a black hole as a basis for understanding general relativity, astrophysics, and elements of cosmology. Extension to current developments in theory and observation. Energy and momentum in flat spacetime; the metric; curvature of spacetime near rotating and nonrotating centers of attraction; trajectories and orbits of particles and light; elementary models of the Cosmos. Weekly meetings include an evening seminar and recitation. The last third of the semester is reserved for collaborative research projects on topics such as the Global Positioning System, solar system tests of relativity, descending into a black hole, gravitational lensing, gravitational waves, Gravity Probe B, and more advanced models of the Cosmos.

Special Features

Technical Requirements

RealOne™ Player software is required to run the .rm files found on this course site. Any number of development tools can be used to compile and run the .java files found on this course site. Please refer to the course materials for any specific instructions or recommendations. File decompression software, such as Winzip® or StuffIt®, is required to open the .zip files found on this course site. Java® Virtual Machine software (automatically installed in most major web browsers) is required to run the .class files found on this course site.

RealOne™ is a trademark or a registered trademark of RealNetworks, Inc.
StuffIt® is a trademark of Aladdin Systems, Inc.
WinZip® is a registered trademark of WinZip Computing, Inc.
Java® is a trademark or registered trademark of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in the United States and other countries.

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Prof. Edmund Bertschinger
Prof. Edwin F. Taylor

Course Meeting Times

One session / week
1.5 hours / session

One session / week
1.5 hours / session