Supermassive Black Holes: The Ultimate Galaxy Killers?

Becky Smethurst
Credit
Angel Li
Start Date
End Date

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There are over 1 billion galaxies in the Universe, each home to over a billion stars and one central supermassive black hole weighing in at up to a billion times the mass of the Sun. Theoretical astrophysicists think that these supermassive black holes can either heat or remove the cold hydrogen gas within a galaxy needed to form new stars through a huge outburst of energy.  This process has to occur in computer simulated universes to stop galaxies evolving and growing too large. However, the big problem is that astronomers have never actually observed this process happening in our Universe. This talk will focus on the research of astrophysicists trying to understand this conflict between observations of galaxies and their supermassive black holes and the current best model of the Universe. In particular Dr. Smethurst will highlight the work being done by the MaNGA survey team who are attempting to map the insides of over 10,000 galaxies in order to solve this long standing problem.

Dr Smethurst is a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, University of Oxford. Her research accomplishments include applying state-of-the-art statistical tools to dissect the evolutionary paths of galaxies in the Universe, using large datasets such as Galaxy Zoo and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. She has demonstrated that so-called `green valley' galaxies, rather than being a homogeneous family, hide a variety of evolutionary paths and reveal how and when galaxies stop forming stars. She is an effective and enthusiastic science communicator, receiving recognition such as the Henrick de Waard Foundation lecture in Groningen. Her weekly videos about physics and astronomy on her YouTube channel 'Dr Becky' have collected more than a hundred thousand subscribers. In those videos she conveys the nuts and bolts of cutting-edge research in a unique, modern, style, to great effect. Her appetite for communicating science is boundless.

Book your FREE RAS March Public Lecture ticket