PHAS Colloquia

Eat This, Not That: Simulating the Stellar Diet of the Galactic Center's Supermassive Black Hole

by Sean Ressler (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 from to (America/Chicago)
Speaker: Dr. Sean Ressler (Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics Fellow, UC Santa Barbara)

Title: Eat This, Not That: Simulating the Stellar Diet of the Galactic Center's Supermassive Black Hole

Abstract: The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) made global news when it presented the first resolved image of a black hole shadow, the characteristic lack of emission caused by the presence of an event horizon.  This image captured the light emitted by the hot plasma surrounding the supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy named M87 and allowed for one of the strongest tests of general relativity to date.  EHT's next target is a black hole much closer to home: Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), located at the center of our own galaxy.  Sgr A* and its surrounding environment have been the focus of intense study for decades, including the close monitoring of nearby orbiting stars that was the subject of the most recent Nobel Prize in Physics. In anticipation of the forthcoming EHT results, my work has focused on using this wealth of observational knowledge already in hand to simulate how gas is fed into the black hole from the orbiting stars.  Using the observations directly allows us to eliminate many of the free parameters typical of previous models and to make more predictive statements about the surrounding gas responsible for emission.  In this talk I will present the results of these simulations after summarizing the current state of the field.

About the speaker: I received my PhD from UC Berkeley last year with Eliot Quataert as my advisor. My thesis was centered around forming more predictive models of accretion onto the supermassive black hole in the galactic center using large-scale numerical simulations and I have continued this pursuit during my short time as a postdoc.  For the past year I have been a KITP fellow at UC Santa Barbara but am currently working remotely from my parents basement in Charlotte, NC.  


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