Mapping the accretion disk around supermassive black holes

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Date: September 30, 2021
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: Physics
Category: Seminar

Speaker: Prof. Edward Cackett, Dept. Physics and Astronomy, Wayne State University

Abstract: 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’) make 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, which 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.    


Biography:  Prof. Cackett was appointed as an Assistant Professor here in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Wayne State University in January 2012 and promoted to Associate Professor in August 2016.  Prof. Cackett’s research interests are broadly observational studies of the astrophysics of black holes and neutron stars.  He received his Master of Science in Physics (2003) from the University of Durham in the U.K., and his Ph.D. degree (2007) in Physics from the University of St. Andrews, UK. Before joining WSU, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan (2006-2010), where he was a prestigious NASA Chandra Fellow, and at the University of Cambridge (2010-2011). Prof. Cackett was the recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award in 2014.  He has received several awards at WSU including the WSU Career Development Chair (2017), WSU Department of Physics and Astronomy Richard J. Barber Faculty Recognition Award (2017), Wayne State Academy of Scholars, Junior Faculty Award (2015), & Sultana N. Nahar Prize for Distinction in Research in Physic and Astronomy (2019).


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Topic: Wayne State Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

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Takeshi Sakamoto


September 2021