Ed Moran, associate professor of astronomy, received a grant worth $62,804 from NASA for a project titled “Black Holes at the Center of Nearby Dwarf Galaxies.”
The project involves observations of six dwarf galaxies with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, also known as the “Hubble Space Telescope of X-ray Astronomy.”
“We have identified ‘active nuclei’ in these objects, which are powered by the accretion of gas onto massive black holes,” Moran says. “The X-ray emission associated with the accretion will give us direct information about the black holes and their surroundings in their host galaxies.”
The black holes in these galaxies are probably less massive than the black holes identified at the centers of larger galaxies (say, 10,000 to 100,000 times the mass of our sun in dwarf galaxies, as opposed to 10 million to 1 billion solar masses in big galaxies.
“By studying these ‘intermediate-mass’ black holes we hope to determine how the super-massive black holes originated back when the universe was young,” he says.