Public Lecture: Windy Supermassive Black Holes

UPEI Physics invites you to a public lecture on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 4:30-5:30 pm in McDougall Hall, Room 242.

Dr. Sarah Gallagher will present “The Biggest Blowhards: Windy Supermassive Black Holes” as part of the 2017 Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) Lecture Tour. Dr. Gallagher’s summary of her talk and brief biography is presented below.

The Biggest Blowhards: Windy Supermassive Black Holes

Supermassive black holes reside in the centres of every massive galaxy including our own Milky Way. In relatively brief spurts, black holes grow as luminous quasars through the infall of material through an accretion disk. Remarkably, the light from the accretion disk can outshine all of the stars in the host galaxy by a factor of a thousand, and this radiation can also drive energetic outflows. Mass ejection in the form of winds appears to be as fundamental to quasar activity as accretion, and can be directly observed in many objects with broadened and blue-shifted UV emission and absorption features. Applying unsupervised and hierarchical clustering algorithms on quasar spectra, we can match windy quasars with specific emission-line properties sensitive to the shape of the ionizing continuum. Beyond the dust sublimation radius, radiation pressure is still important, but high energy photons from the central engine can now push on dust grains. This physics underlies the dusty wind picture for the putative obscuring torus. I’ll describe our model of the dusty wind and evaluate its successes and shortcomings in accounting for observed properties of quasars such their mid-infrared power and the fraction of hidden objects.

Dr. Sarah Gallagher. Photo via LinkedIn.com

Sarah Gallagher is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. Prior to that, she was an Assistant Research Astronomer at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2006, she completed a Spitzer Postdoctoral Fellowship entitled Understanding Quasar Outflows: Evolution or Orientation? Her research focuses on investigating the nature of winds from luminous quasars (accreting supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies) using observatories covering the infrared to the X-ray, including two of NASA’s Great Observatories, Spitzer and Chandra. Gallagher received her Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Penn State where she was also a member of the Chandra ACIS Instrument team. Her thesis, entitled The View through the Wind: X-ray Observations of Broad Absorption Line Quasars, incorporated X-ray data from three observatories: ROSAT, ASCA, and Chandra. Gallagher spent a year at MIT working with the Chandra X-ray gratings group before going to UCLA in 2003. Before graduate school, she was an undergraduate at Yale University and a Physics teacher for two years at the Holderness School where she also coached soccer, ran a girls’ dormitory, and led winter camping trips.

March 2 Public Viewing – POSTPONED to March 30

UPDATE (8:00 AM Mar 23): With partly cloudy skies forecast for tonight plus UPEI being closed for the day due to a snowstorm, the telescope viewing is being postponed until Thursday, March 30, from 8:30-10:30PM.

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UPDATE (10:30 AM Mar 01): The weather forecast for the next few days is all cloudy skies and precipitation, so we are postponing the telescope viewing until Thursday, March 23. The viewing will also shift to a later time (to accommodate the increasing daylight hours) and will take place from 8:30-10:30PM. We have a UPEI student society attending at the start, so the first 30 to 60 minutes of the viewing will be a bit busier, but you are welcome to attend at any time.

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Our next public viewing is scheduled for Thursday, March 2 from 7:00-9:00PM. You can come to the viewing at any time during that period, but we have a UPEI student society coming at 7:00PM so for the first hour or so that group will be given priority access to the telescope.

Our observatory is on the rooftop of UPEI’s Memorial Hall, but we ask that you come first to room 417 to wait for your turn to go up to the telescope. Volunteers from local astronomy groups and UPEI Physics will be available to answer any astronomy questions for you while you wait.

It is necessary to climb a flight of stairs to reach the telescope, but the elevator can be taken up to the 4th floor waiting room.Observatory Location & Parking

In the evening hours, campus parking lots are free, with parking lots B and C being the nearest lots to Memorial Hall.

If the weather is cloudy and we cannot view the sky, the event will have to be cancelled or postponed. This post will be updated in the event of cancellation or postponement.

February 16 Public Viewing – CANCELLED

UPDATE (Feb. 15, 4:30PM): With a winter storm warning for Feb. 16, our telescope viewing can’t go ahead. Our next public viewing at the observatory will be March 2 (see separate new post for details).

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Our next public viewing is scheduled for Thursday, February 16 from 6:30-9:00PM. You can come to the viewing at any time during that period, but we have a large children’s group coming at 6:30PM so for the first hour or so that group will be given priority access to the telescope.

Our observatory is on the rooftop of UPEI’s Memorial Hall, but we ask that you come first to room 417 to wait for your turn to go up to the telescope. Volunteers from local astronomy groups and UPEI Physics will be available to answer any astronomy questions for you while you wait.

It is necessary to climb a flight of stairs to reach the telescope, but the elevator can be taken up to the 4th floor waiting room.Observatory Location & Parking

In the evening hours, campus parking lots are free, with parking lots B and C being the nearest lots to Memorial Hall.

If the weather is cloudy and we cannot view the sky, the event will have to be cancelled. This post will be updated in the event of cancellation. The next public viewing will be Thursday, March 2, likely from 7:00-9:00pm.

January 26 Public Viewing – POSTPONED to February 2

UPDATE (10:15AM Feb 6): Our viewing went ahead on February 2 – the first successful night-time viewing we’ve had at the observatory since June of 2016! The viewing started out with partly cloudy skies, but the sky cleared as the temperatures dropped and we had pretty good viewing conditions by evening’s end. Over 30 people attended the viewing and all had an opportunity to view craters on the waxing crescent Moon and also see Venus in its waxing crescent phase (for many guests, it was the first time they’d heard of the phases of Venus). Venus was shining quite a bright yellow, so some of our younger guests said it looked like a “space banana”.

The phase of Venus on Feb. 2, as shown in this screenshot from the program Stellarium.

The phase of Venus on Feb. 2, as shown in this screenshot from the program Stellarium.

Towards the end of the evening, we had a look at the Orion Nebula, which can be found in the “sword” of the constellation Orion.

The location of the Orion Nebula is shown in the sword of Orion within the square (screenshot from Stellarium).

The location of the Orion Nebula is shown in the sword of Orion within the square (screenshot from Stellarium).

We couldn’t see all of the colours present in the simulation of the Orion Nebula shown below, but we were able to see the contrast between the denser (darker) bands of gas and the less dense ones, particularly in the upper left portion of the nebula.

Orion Nebula as simulated in Stellarium.

Orion Nebula as simulated in Stellarium.

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UPDATE (10:45AM Jan. 26): Due to the cloudy weather, we are postponing public viewing originally scheduled for January 26. The viewing is now scheduled for Thursday, February 2 from 6:30-8:30PM. You can come to the viewing at any time in that 2-hour period, but we have a children’s group coming at 6:30PM so the first half-hour or so that group will be given priority access to the telescope.

Our observatory is on the rooftop of UPEI’s Memorial Hall, but we ask that you come first to room 417 to wait for your turn to go up to the telescope. Volunteers from local astronomy groups and UPEI Physics will be available to answer any astronomy questions for you while you wait.

It is necessary to climb a flight of stairs to reach the telescope, but the elevator can be taken up to the 4th floor waiting room.Observatory Location & Parking

In the evening hours, campus parking lots are free, with parking lots B and C being the nearest lots to Memorial Hall.

If the weather is cloudy and we cannot view the sky, the event will have to be cancelled. This post will be updated in the event of cancellation.

How to Use Your Telescope Workshop – January 19, 2017

Do you have a telescope at home that you’re not really sure how to use? Then we invite you to attend our “How to Use Your Telescope” workshop where volunteers from our Community Astronomy Network will help you set up your telescope and practice using it. We also invite anyone who’s interested in learning about telescopes to attend, even if you don’t have a telescope of your own.

Telescope Workshop

The workshop will be held from 7:00-9:00PM on Thursday, January 19, 2017 in room 128A of the School of Sustainable Design Engineering (SSDE) building on the UPEI campus. Volunteers will be available starting at 6:45PM to help you with telescope drop-off and transporting them to the room where the workshop will be held (see campus map below).

ssde-campus-map

If you’re bringing a telescope, please register so that we can prepare our volunteers to assist with your particular telescope model.

Link to registration form

RSVP on the Facebook Event (optional)