Accreting Black Holes: Near & Far – UROP Summer Symposium 2021

Accreting Black Holes: Near & Far

Matt Michalski

Matt Michalski

Pronouns: He/Him/His

UROP Fellowship: CCSFP, Washtenaw Community College
Research Mentor(s): Mark Reynolds, PhD
Research Mentor Institution/Department: College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Department of Astronomy

Presentation Date: Wednesday, August 4th
Session: Session 3 (5pm-6:20pm EDT)
Breakout Room: Room 3
Presenter: 10

Event Link


“4U 1755-388 and AT2020ocn, though these may seem like incongruous codes, they in fact mark the names of two differing, accreting black holes. 4U 1755-388 was discovered lying near the center of our Galaxy in 1971 as a stellar mass black hole and remained very active until 1995 when it entered a quiescent, or dormant, stage for 25 years until April of 2020 when a new X-ray outburst was recorded. On the other hand, AT2020ocn is a much more distant super massive black hole, and was discovered more recently in the same month that 4U 1755-338’s outburst occurred, and created an unexpected tidal disruption event, which occurs when a super massive black hole destroys a star that got too close for comfort due to incredible gravitational field of the black hole.

Through data-modeling programs, we have analyzed X-ray data collected from NASA’s SWIFT and MAXI satellite missions. This data arrives to us as a spectrum file that we must then compare with models that helps us understand how energy is emitted by a black hole and matches our view of the spectrum. This allows us to gain further knowledge stellar mass black holes like 4U 1755-338 or of super massive black holes such as AT2020ocn. Through these models we can see how the accretion onto both black holes changes over time. This allows us to increase our understanding of the behavior of similar black holes in our Galaxy and across the Universe.

By learning about black holes we can further expand our knowledge on the evolution and formation of galaxies. Knowing that they are found in almost every galaxy, and being able to see how they spread fundamental elements such as gold, platinum, and iron, helps lead to our understanding of how they contribute to the creation of planets such as Earth. Though black holes are relatively invisible, making them difficult to study, learning how they impact the environments around them can lead to a better grasp on the concept of physics and how it relates to the universe around us. By compiling the data provided by NASA’s satellite missions, we can help ensure a smooth path for future scientists in our mission to uncover the mysteries of black holes.”

Authors: Shannon Flores, Matt Michalski, Mark Reynolds
Research Method: Experimental Research

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