Probing the Origin of Supermassive Black Holes with Dwarf Galaxies
February 20, 2014 - 10:00am
College of Computing, CoC017
Over the past decade we have come to appreciate that essentially every giant galaxy, including our own Milky Way, harbors a supermassive black hole at its center. These monster black holes, with masses of millions or even billions of times the mass of the Sun, play an important role in the evolution of galaxies and the appearance of the observable Universe. However, unlike stellar-mass black holes that result from the collapse of massive stars at the end of their lives, the origin of supermassive black holes is largely unknown. While direct observations of the first "seeds" of supermassive black holes in the infant Universe are unobtainable with current telescopes, finding and studying the smallest "dwarf" galaxies hosting supermassive black holes today can provide valuable constraints on the masses, host galaxies, and formation mechanism of supermassive black hole seeds. Until recently, however, very few dwarf galaxies were known to host supermassive black holes. I will present my recent achievements in this field including the first discovery of supermassive black hole in a dwarf starburst galaxy that resembles those in the earlier Universe, as well as the detection of more than 100 dwarf galaxies exhibiting signatures of actively accreting supermassive black holes. I will also discuss my on-going and future efforts to study dwarf galaxies and help constrain theories for the origin of supermassive black holes.