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Observing active galaxies, the sites of growing supermassive black holes

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A supermassive black hole lurks at the centre of possibly every galaxy, including our own Milky Way and the innumerable galaxies in the distant Universe. When these distant black holes feed on galactic material (gas, dust, and stars) they light up as “active galaxies”. The extreme brightness and energetic output of these systems, unrivalled in the Universe, is sufficient to impact the formation of the stars and galaxies around them. It also makes them readily observable with telescopes on Earth, if only as unresolved points of light on the sky. I will describe ongoing efforts and challenges in observing and understanding the active galaxy population, including the unique challenge of identifying the “hidden” population which dominates the cosmic growth of black holes.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Sciences Group series.

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