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Laura Blecha - Colliding galaxies and monster black holes

 Laura Blecha

Talk details

  • Date: 5 December 2021
  • Time: 1 p.m. (EST)
  • Location: Zoom 
  • All Advanced Studies Gateway events are free and open to the public
  • Video recording

Talk abstract

From the speaker:

“Supermassive black holes are millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun and reside in the centers of most galaxies (including our own Milky Way). When two galaxies collide, the effects on their central supermassive black holes can be dramatic. Galaxy mergers funnel gas towards their centers, where it creates spectacularly bright fireworks as it spirals into the black holes. Eventually the two black holes form a close binary pair, emitting powerful gravitational waves as they spiral toward each other and merge to form one larger black hole. Gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of spacetime—were first detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in 2015, a discovery that was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. Now we stand on the cusp of the next frontier: detections of low-frequency gravitational waves from supermassive black hole binaries. I will describe our recent work to model supermassive black hole populations across cosmic time and make predictions for gravitational-wave sources, using large simulations of galaxy collisions and cosmological volumes.”


Laura Blecha

Laura Blecha is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Florida. She received a bachelor of science degree in physics and integrated science from Northwestern University in 2005, a master of philosophy degree in astronomy from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, and a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from Harvard University in 2012. She was a NASA Einstein Fellow and a Joint Space-Science Institute Prize Postdoc at the University of Maryland before joining the University of Florida faculty in 2017. Blecha is a theoretical and computational astrophysicist whose research focuses primarily on the evolution of supermassive black holes and galaxies, including black-hole formation, fueling, and feedback, galaxy mergers, gravitational-wave source populations, and the gravitational-wave and multi-messenger signatures of binary black holes.