Astronomy 2: Relativity and Gravitation

The Relativity and Gravitation strand of Astronomy 2 is intended to give you a thorough understanding of Special Relativity (10 lectures), and an outline understanding of the ideas of General Relativity, which underlies the modern theory of gravity (five lectures).

Session 2023–24

My other lecture courses.


I regard the lecture notes as the primary resource for your learning of the material of this course – the lectures, and the brief introductory videos, are there to support the notes.

There will therefore be considerable overlap between the notes, the lectures, and the videos, but this is deliberate: relativity is odd in that you only really understand relativity the second time you work through it. Making available multiple resources, however, and comparing your understanding from one with your understanding from another, you're able to get that ‘second time around’ about the same time as the first time!

The notes are available on the Astronomy 2 moodle. The notes are available chapter-by-chapter; each chapter will typically take a couple of lectures to cover.

In the lectures, I will presume that you have already printed out the relevant chapter, and at least looked over it. You will not need to, and indeed should not expect to, understand things first time, but this preliminary scan should give you an indication of what bits of the lecture you need to pay special attention to. Having said that, don't be in a rush to print out everything – as I spot typos or other infelicities, I will occasionally adjust the notes as distributed here.

Other remarks

The notes are available in a couple of different layouts in the Moodle, including EPUB. If anyone needs special versions of these notes (with large print or in particular colours for example), I can probably produce those very easily – let me know.

I am distributing these notes as PDF files: you should be able to read and print these out without difficulty, but if you have any trouble, mail me and let me know.

The audio of the lectures is available as a podcast RSS feed icon. You can find that audio on a separate page, which includes links to feed files which you can use to subscribe to updates using common podcast readers.

I've taught this course, on and off, since about 2000. This resulted in a book, derived from these notes, which was published by CUP in 2022.

Norman Gray
2023 October 3