Quasars – from discovery to the 2020 Nobel Prize for physics

11/13/2020 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Paul Hewett (Cambridge)
Type of Event (for grouping events):

Discovered in 1963 as a result of the opening of a new wavelength regime, radio astronomy, quasars demonstrated the existence of supermassive black holes with masses 10 to 1000 million times that of the Sun. The enormous efficiency of the conversion of mass to energy as quasars accrete matter and grow results in extreme luminosities, making quasars the most powerful non-transient objects in the universe. Nevertheless, for decades quasars were regarded merely as interesting curiosities or as background light sources to study the gaseous intergalactic medium. Then, their significance in the context of galaxy formation and evolution was transformed in the late 1990s. For the last two decades a significant resource has been devoted to understanding the physical relationship between supermassive black holes and their host galaxies. A model involving direct “feedback” relating the growth of both is now widely accepted but direct observational evidence has proved elusive. The talk will present a review of how our understanding of quasars has evolved and the potential of recent developments in data science and big-data to contribute to further advances in understanding and the relationship between quasars and galaxy evolution.


Host: Ferland

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