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).


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.

If anyone needs, for example, large-print versions of the notes, I can probably produce those easily.

Norman Gray
2021 September 19