The Intertwined Lives of Galaxies and Their Supermassive Black Holes

by Michael Wright

Our monthly lectures will continue on Tuesday, March 12 at 8:00 pm in Peyton Hall on the Princeton University Campus. Our speaker this month will be Dr. Rachel Somerville, who will present a lecture entitled “The Intertwined Lives of Galaxies and their Supermassive Black Holes.”

Dr. Rachel Somerville

Dr. Rachel Somerville. Photo Credit: Rutgers University

Astrophysicists have strong evidence that in the hearts of many, perhaps all, massive galaxies lurk supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions times the mass of our Sun. These black holes can grow by gobbling up stars and gas that fall into the center of their host galaxies. Some of this accreted mass is converted into energy, causing the black holes to release enormous amounts of radiation and produce giant jets of relativistic particles in some cases. Dr. Somerville will explain the observational evidence that supermassive black holes exist, and that they power quasars, some of the most luminous objects in the Universe. She will talk about how galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time and how supermassive black holes shape the galaxy properties that we can observe. She will showcase recent results from the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS), the largest project ever undertaken with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Somerville has won several prizes for work. Most recently, the American Institute of Physics and the American Astronomical Society awarded her the 2013 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics “for providing fundamental insights into galaxy formation and evolution using semi-analytic modeling, simulations and observations.”

Dr. Somerville has been a member of several large observational teams, including the Hubble Ultra Deep Field team and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) team. She currently leads the theory working group for CANDELS. She received her Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz, and did postdoctoral work at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge. Dr. Somerville has served on the faculty at the Univ. of Michigan and headed the theory group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. She formerly served on the science staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute and as a research professor at Johns Hopkins University. She currently holds the George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Chair in Astrophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers.

This entry was posted in March 2013, Sidereal Times and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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