Astrophysics Seminar: Dr. Catherine Grier, University of Arizona


Location: zoom

Quasars and Supermassive Black Holes: Uncovering Mysteries with Reverberation Mapping

Dr. Catherine Grier
Assistant Research Professor
University of Arizona

Supermassive black holes, with masses that range from tens of thousands to billions of times the mass of our Sun, are thought to be present in nearly every galaxy in the Universe and may affect the growth and evolution of these galaxies. To understand how supermassive black holes interact with their host galaxies, we require accurate measurements of supermassive black hole masses in galaxies across the entire universe, as well as an understanding of their physical environments. We obtain this information by observing objects called active galactic nuclei, or quasars, which have supermassive black holes with large amounts of matter falling into them. These sources are highly variable, and we can use their variability to both measure their masses and learn about the physical environment very close to the black holes. We do this by examining the time delays between continuum flux variations and the response of distant gas as it reprocesses the ionizing radiation into emission lines which thus seem to “reverberate,” echoing the continuum variations; this technique is called reverberation mapping. In my talk, I will discuss supermassive black holes, active galactic nuclei/quasars, and the use of time variability -- primarily the technique of reverberation mapping -- to learn about these phenomena. I will focus specifically on my recent and planned work on large-scale reverberation-mapping projects using data from large surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which have allowed us to investigate large numbers of quasars at much greater distances than ever before.

Hosted by Prof. Howk

All interested persons are invited to attend remotely—email for information.