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Learning and Communicating about Gravity in Astronomy

For Teachers:

The OpenStax program at Rice University in Houston, Texas USA will let you have access to a high-quality free astronomy textbook. The textbook is written by noted astronomy educator Andrew Fraknoi and noted astronomers David Morrison and Sidney Wolff.

Chapter 24 of this open-source, free astronomy textbook is on “Black Holes and Curved Spacetime”. The book makes a great reference for teachers. By registering as a teacher, you can also get free access to teacher guides, PowerPoint presentations, and other valuable resources.


The book can be downloaded free as a PDF or iBook, and read on-line.

For Teachers and Students:
Background Videos

The links below are to YouTube videos*, many of which originate from PBS Digital Studios. They provide background information, presented in an engaging way, on the topics that are addressed in Einstein Schools and should help you and your students narrow down which particular topic you are most interested in investigating further.

From Physics Girl:

The black hole death problem

From It’s OK to be Smart:

Einstein Is (Almost) Always Right: Gravitational Waves Edition

From the PBS Digital channel PBS Space Time

Series of five videos (ranging in length from 9 to 12 minutes) on the topic of Curved Space Time in General Relativity

Is Gravity An Illusion?

Are Space And Time An Illusion?

Can A Circle Be A Straight Line?

Can You Trust Your Eyes In Spacetime?

General Relativity & Curved Spacetime Explained!

Black Holes:

How to Build a Black Hole

Black Holes Playlist


Anti-gravity and the True Nature of Dark Energy

Clip from NOVA series The Elegant Universe:

Gravity - From Newton to Einstein

More videos on Eclipses, Black Holes, and Gravitational Waves

Basics of Eclipses
This video describes solar eclipses, including the Great American Eclipse of August 2017 as well as how other eclipses can occur in the solar system and on other systems outside of our solar system.

TEDEd Talk and lesson on solar eclipses: What creates a total solar eclipse?

How Astronomers Are Circling a Black Hole | Out There
This video describes how a supermassive black hole has been found in the middle of our Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers are probing the edge of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Hearing a Ripple in Space Time
About a hundred years ago, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, but until now, they were undetectable.

Black Hole Hunters
Astronomers hope the Event Horizon Telescope, a synchronized network of radio antennas as large as the Earth, will take the first ever picture of a black hole, an abyss so deep no light can escape.

Could the Earth be Swallowed by a Black Hole?

Einstein’s Telescope
A century after Albert Einstein proposed that gravity could bend light, astronomers now rely on galaxies or even clusters of galaxies to magnify distant stars.

How to Make a Black Hole: Spinning Into Oblivion
Supercomputer simulations show the moment when a pair of neutron stars collide, collapse into a black hole and tear themselves out of the visible universe.

The Shadow Universe Revealed
Recently astronomers have used a cosmic web imager to visualize simulations of dark matter, showing how the large scale structure of the universe grows and the nests in which galaxies are hatched.

Hubble Space Telescope Reflects the Cosmos
After 25 years, the Hubble Space Telescope is still surprising us. Hubble has been called the most important advance in astronomy since Galileo, and its greatest discoveries might still be ahead.

*Note: most of these videos will be accompanied by one or more ads (unless you have upgraded to a YouTube subscription). There will also be a list of related videos that YouTube automatically suggests you watch. These videos may or may not be appropriate or scientifically accurate. Please use discretion when watching these related videos.

Books & Articles

The Eclipse that Revealed the Universe
The eclipse of 1919 was a turning point in astronomy, as it verified Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony: The Story of a Gamble, Two Black Holes, and a New Age of Astronomy (New Edition), by Marcia Bartusiak
Softcover, Yale University Press, June 2017

Named a 2017 Best Book by the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science Books and Film Original Edition Winner of the 2001 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Prize New York Times “Notable Book”

Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled on by Hawking Became Loved, by Marcia Bartusiak
Hardcover, Yale University Press, April 2015
Softcover, Yale University Press, March 2016

  • Finalist for the Phi Beta Kappa Science Writing Prize
  • Longlisted for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
  • Named one of best physics books in 2015 by Symmetry magazine
  • A Science News favorite science book for 2015
  • Named Best Physics Book of 2015 by @Astropopular
  • Prose Award Honorable Mention, for the Cosmology & Astronomy category
  • Named a Best Book of 2015 by Science Books & Film
  • Named an Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association

Also by Marcia Bartusiak: Science News (online) is a great source of information on astronomy and other science topics. For example, for more recent news on gravitational wave detection see:

Article: Scientists’ collection of gravitational waves just got a lot bigger

For an historical perspective see:
Article: The Long Road to Detecting Gravity Waves

Article: A New Gravitational Wave Detector in Japan is almost ready