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Special Presentations

Quasar science with the Hubble Space Telescope in the era of time-domain astronomy

Presented by: Jessie Runnoe (Dept of Astronomy – Univ. of Michigan)
Category: Special Interest   Duration: 1 hour   Broadcast date: January 22, 2019
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Black hole feeding, visible as quasars, is a critical ingredient in many fields from galaxy evolution to multi-messenger gravitational wave astrophysics. Despite their prodigious luminosities, the important emission regions surrounding the supermassive black hole – the accretion disk and broad line region – cannot be imaged directly because of their small angular sizes. Because quasars are intrinsically variable phenomena, time-domain spectroscopy is a powerful tool for revealing their nature. Single-epoch spectroscopy has been a workhorse for building the modern picture of quasar central engines. Extending this to the time domain promises new insights and exotic discoveries. I will describe two examples from my work on quasars in the time domain: an observational search for supermassive black hole binaries, an expected but unobserved product of galaxy evolution, and changing-look quasars, newly observed rapid transitions between "quasar-like" and "galaxy-like" spectral states. Notably, ultraviolet spectroscopy has a unique role to play in unlocking the physics of these systems. I will highlight examples that show the important role of the Hubble Space Telescope in the upcoming era of time-domain astronomy.