ASTRO 210: Black Holes in the Universe

 Section 1, Spring 2019



Lecture:  Monday, Wednesday & Friday

Location: RITA, room 363

Time: MWF 2:00pm - 2:50pm



Instructor: Dr. George Chartas

Office: RITA, room 307

Office hours: MWF : 3:00 - 4:00 pm

Phone: (843) 953-3609



A preliminary outline of the course can be found at the SCHEDULE website. Some of this material is subject to change and this site will be constantly up-dated so please check it before each class.




Required materials:

The required textbook for the course is

Gravity’s Fatal Attraction, Black Holes in the Universe Second Edition by Mitchell Begelman and Martin Rees.


Recommended textbook for the course is Black Holes and Time Warps, Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy by Kip S. Thorne


Course Objectives:

Ever wonder what it would be like to cross the event horizon of a black hole, or whether time travel was possible?  Find out how you can travel in a round trip close to the speed of light to find out that your friend has aged when you return.  Will the Large Hadron Collider create mini black holes and is it safe?  Learn about how black holes drag space along as they rotate and do so with “no hair”.


This course will cover the strange predicted properties of black holes and describe observations of objects that we think harbor them.


Learning Outcomes:


Demonstrate conceptual understanding (through quizzes, projects, and tests) of the following topics:


-  Understand Einstein's theory of special relativity as it applies to length contraction, and time dilation.


- Understand  Einstein’s theory of general relativity as it applies to the equivalence principle, space-time, and the prediction of black holes.


-  Describe Stellar Evolution and the fate of stars (Brown Dwarfs, White Dwarfs, Neutron stars, Black holes)


-  Describe the techniques used for the detection of stellar mass black holes


-  Describe the current paradigm of active galactic nuclei.


-  Explain contemporary theories of Dark Matter and describe methods to detect it.


- Describe the current paradigm of Gamma Ray Bursts


-  Describe recent observations of the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way


- Explain Gravitational Waves and describe methods to detect them.

- Explain Feedback between black holes and their environments


- Explain Miniholes and the Hawking Effect

I recommend that you review the material before it is presented in class. This will help you to better understand the concepts and enjoy the class. I expect your active participation in the class.





CREDIT: This is a three-credit course.


PREREQUISITES: This course is designed for non-science majors. Advanced mathematics is not required; only high-school level math will be used occasionally.

PRESENTATIONS:  Every student group will be expected to give a 15-minute presentation on a topic related to material covered in the course. You will work in groups of two to prepare and present the research talk.

The presentation may be in PowerPoint, keynote, overhead or blackboard. It should include a list of references and each student should present a portion of the talk.


There will be dates near the end of the semester allocated to these research presentations.




Midterm Exams and Quizzes:

There will be 2 midterm exams over the semester. Several quizzes will be given during lectures. The quizzes will be based on material already presented in lectures. There will be a final exam that will cover most of the material presented in the lectures.







Your final grade will be calculated as follows:




Presentation and Participation







Your number grade will be converted into a letter grade as follows.







































Special Needs

If you have any special needs or disabilities that might require special arrangements to be made for any aspect of this course, please let me know at the beginning of the semester or as soon as you become aware of them.

1.                  Any student eligible for and needing accommodations because of a disability is requested to speak with the professor during the first two weeks of class or as soon as the student has been approved for services so that reasonable accommodations can be arranged.



2.                  The College will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Students should apply for services at the Center for Disability Services/SNAP located on the first floor of the Lightsey Center, Suite 104.  Students approved for accommodations are responsible for notifying me as soon as possible and for contacting me one week before accommodation is needed.


3.                  This College abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you have a documented disability that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations, please see an administrator at the Center of Disability Services/SNAP, (843) 953-1431) or me so that such accommodation may be arranged.


Class Policies:

Cellular technology:  Please respect your classmates and keep your cellular devices off.


College of Charleston Honor Code and Academic Integrity:

Lying, cheating, attempted cheating, and plagiarism are violations of our Honor Code that, when identified, are investigated.  Each incident will be examined to determine the degree of deception involved.


Incidents where the instructor determines the student-s actions are related more to a misunderstanding will be handeled by the instructor.  A written intervention designed to help prevent the student from repeating the error will be given to the student.  The intervention, submitted by form and signed both by the instructor and the student, will be forwarded to the Dean of Students and placed in the student-s file.  


Cases of suspected academic dishonesty will be reported directly by the instructor and/or others having knowledge of the incident to the Dean of Students.  A student found responsible by the Honor Board for academic dishonesty will receive a XF in the course, indicating failure of the course due to academic dishonesty.  This grade will appear on the student-s transcript for two years after which the student may petition for the X to be expunged.  The F is permanent.  The student may also be placed on disciplinary probation, suspended (temporary removal) or expelled (permanent removal) from the College by the Honor Board.


Students should be aware that unauthorized collaboration--working together without permission-- is a form of cheating.  Unless the instructor specifies that students can work together on an assignment, quiz and/or test, no collaboration during the completion of the assignment is permitted.   Other forms of cheating include possessing or using an unauthorized study aid (which could include accessing information via a cell phone or computer), copying from others- exams, fabricating data, and giving unauthorized assistance.


Research conducted and/or papers written for other classes cannot be used in whole or in part for any assignment in this class without obtaining prior permission from the instructor. 


Students can find the complete Honor Code and all related processes in the Student Handbook at