Mapping the accretion disk around supermassive black holes
Prof. Edward Cackett
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Wayne State University
Every major galaxy seems to contain a supermassive black hole at its center. About 1% of these supermassive black holes are actively accreting gas from surrounding material and are referred to as Active Galactic Nuclei (or AGNs). The gravitational potential energy liberated as this gas sinks towards the black hole (‘accretes’) makes AGNs some of the most luminous objects in the Universe. Accretion is an important process since the energy that feeds back into the host galaxy has an important influence on its evolution. Accretion is thought to take place via an optically thick, geometrically thin ‘accretion disk’. However, the angular size of these disks is too small to be resolved with current technology. I will describe how we use a technique called reverberation mapping, that swaps spatial resolution for time resolution, to infer the size of these accretion disks and better understand what happens in the region closest to the supermassive black hole in AGNs.
Hosted by Dr. Crass