ASTRO 410: Black Holes

 Spring 2019



Lecture:  Tuesday

Location: RITA, room 363

Time: 4:30 – 5:20 PM



Instructor: Dr. George Chartas

Office: RITA, room 307

Office hours: T 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.




Recommended materials:

The recommended textbooks for the course are:


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


Black Holes and Time Warps, Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy by Kip S. Thorne


Course Objectives:

Students will be introduced to several special topics related to black holes and their environments. They will learn to analyze and interpret data collected from recent observations of objects that harbor black holes, and perform numerical and theoretical calculations to estimate the observed properties of black holes.


Learning Outcomes:


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


Gravitational Lensing by Black Holes


The effects of general relativity on GPS satellites


Calculations of the precession rate for a binary pulsar


Frame Dragging with Gravity Probe B


Extreme effects near a black hole


Black hole entropy and Hawking radiation


Black Hole Accretion Disks and an introduction to calculating accretion disk spectra


A method of finding stellar-mass black holes


Microquasars - Stellar-mass black holes with jets


Analyzing spectra of black hole accretion disks to constrain their mass and spin.









CREDIT: This is a one-credit course.


PREREQUISITES: This course is designed for science majors. Prerequisite is PHYS.112  and corequisite is ASTRO.210.

PROJECT/PRESENTATION:  Every student will be expected to complete a research project on a special topic related to material covered in the course. A report describing the results of this project will be due near the end of the semester.

Students are expected to present their research project to the class. The presentation may be in PowerPoint, Keynote, overhead or blackboard. It should include a list of references.

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





Your final grade will be calculated as follows:




Paper presentation


Final Project presentation


Final Project Report





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.

Class and Attendance Policies:

Cellular technology:  Please respect your class-mates and keep your cellular devices off.  You are expected to attend all classes.



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