Deriving the Schwarzschild solution

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The Schwarzschild solution is one of the simplest and most useful solutions of the Einstein field equations (see general relativity). It describes spacetime in the vicinity of a non-rotating massive spherically-symmetric object. It is worthwhile deriving this metric in some detail; the following is a reasonably rigorous derivation that is not always seen in the textbooks.

Assumptions and notation

Working in a coordinate chart with coordinates labelled 1 to 4 respectively, we begin with the metric in its most general form (10 independent components, each of which is a smooth function of 4 variables). The solution is assumed to be spherically symmetric, static and vacuum. For the purposes of this article, these assumptions may be stated as follows (see the relevant links for precise definitions):

(1) A spherically symmetric spacetime is one in which all metric components are unchanged under any rotation-reversal or .

(2) A static spacetime is one in which all metric components are independent of the time coordinate (so that ) and the geometry of the spacetime is unchanged under a time-reversal .

(3) A vacuum solution is one that satisfies the equation . From the Einstein field equations (with zero cosmological constant), this implies that (after contracting and putting ).

(4) Metric signature used here is .

Diagonalising the metric

The first simplification to be made is to diagonalise the metric. Under the coordinate transformation, , all metric components should remain the same. The metric components () change under this transformation as:


But, as we expect (metric components remain the same), this means that:


Similarly, the coordinate transformations and respectively give:


Putting all these together gives:


and hence the metric must be of the form:

where the four metric components are independent of the time coordinate (by the static assumption).

Simplifying the components

On each hypersurface of constant , constant and constant (i.e., on each radial line), should only depend on (by spherical symmetry). Hence is a function of a single variable:

A similar argument applied to shows that:

On the hypersurfaces of constant and constant , it is required that the metric be that of a 2-sphere:

Choosing one of these hypersurfaces (the one with radius , say), the metric components restricted to this hypersurface (which we denote by and ) should be unchanged under rotations through and (again, by spherical symmetry). Comparing the forms of the metric on this hypersurface gives:

which immediately yields:


But this is required to hold on each hypersurface; hence,


Thus, the metric can be put in the form:

with and as yet undetermined functions of . Note that if or is equal to zero at some point, the metric would be singular at that point.

Calculating the Christoffel symbols

Using the metric above, we find the Christoffel symbols, where the indices are . The sign denotes a total derivative of a function.

Using the field equations to find and

To determine and , the vacuum field equations are employed:

Only four of these equations are nontrivial and upon simplification become:

(The fourth equation is just times the second equation)

where the dot means the r derivative of the functions.

Subtracting the first and third equations produces:

where is a non-zero real constant. Substituting into the second equation and tidying up gives:

which has general solution:

for some non-zero real constant . Hence, the metric for a static, spherically symmetric vacuum solution is now of the form:

Note that the spacetime represented by the above metric is asymptotically flat, i.e. as , the metric approaches that of the Minkowski metric and the spacetime manifold resembles that of Minkowski space.

Using the Weak-Field Approximation to find and

This diagram gives the route to find the Schwarzschild solution by using weak field approximation. The equality on the second row gives g44 = -c2 + 2GM/r, assuming the desired solution degenerates to Minkowski metric when the motion happens far away from the blackhole (r approaches to positive infinity).

The geodesics of the metric (obtained where is extremised) must, in some limit (e.g., toward infinite speed of light), agree with the solutions of Newtonian motion (e.g., obtained by Lagrange equations). (The metric must also limit to Minkowski space when the mass it represents vanishes.)

(where is the kinetic energy and is the Potential Energy due to gravity) The constants and are fully determined by some variant of this approach; from the weak-field approximation one arrives at the result:

where is the gravitational constant, is the mass of the gravitational source and is the speed of light. It is found that:




So, the Schwarzschild metric may finally be written in the form:

Note that:

is the definition of the Schwarzschild radius for an object of mass , so the Schwarzschild metric may be rewritten in the alternative form:

which shows that the metric becomes singular approaching the event horizon (that is, ). The metric singularity is not a physical one (although there is a real physical singularity at ), as can be shown by using a suitable coordinate transformation (e.g. the Kruskal–Szekeres coordinate system).

Alternative form in isotropic coordinates

The original formulation of the metric uses anisotropic coordinates in which the velocity of light is not the same in the radial and transverse directions. A S Eddington gave alternative forms in isotropic coordinates.[1] For isotropic spherical coordinates , , , coordinates and are unchanged, and then (provided )[2]

. . ., . . ., and

. . .

Then for isotropic rectangular coordinates , , ,

The metric then becomes, in isotropic rectangular coordinates:

. . .

Dispensing with the static assumption - Birkhoff's theorem

In deriving the Schwarzschild metric, it was assumed that the metric was vacuum, spherically symmetric and static. In fact, the static assumption is stronger than required, as Birkhoff's theorem states that any spherically symmetric vacuum solution of Einstein's field equations is stationary; then one obtains the Schwarzschild solution. Birkhoff's theorem has the consequence that any pulsating star which remains spherically symmetric cannot generate gravitational waves (as the region exterior to the star must remain static).

See also


  1. A S Eddington, "Mathematical Theory of Relativity", Cambridge UP 1922 (2nd ed.1924, repr.1960), at page 85 and page 93. Symbol usage in the Eddington source for interval s and time-like coordinate t has been converted for compatibility with the usage in the derivation above.
  2. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}