Black Hole Orbits

In this Teen Astronomy Cafe — To Go! Instant Pack, students review Newton’s laws of gravity and learn the basics needed to understand numerical integration before applying it to the motion of a particle around a black hole. Students apply numerical integration to simulate a ball at a constant velocity, a ball with changing velocity, and a ball on a spring. With this information, students compare the general theory of relativity to Newton's law of universal gravitation and evaluate which theory would be suited to determining a particle's motion around a black hole, and explain why. This activity is conducted in a Python Notebook, a web-based interactive computational environment that contains code, text, and plots.