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Bringing our Galaxy's Supermassive Black Hole and its Environs into Focus with Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics

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Eddington Lecture 2009

The proximity of our Galaxy’s center presents a unique opportunity to study a massive black hole and its environs with much higher spatial resolution than can be brought to bear on any other galaxy. After more than a decade of astrometry from diffraction-limited speckle imaging on large ground- based telescopes, the case for a supermassive black hole at the Galactic center has dramatically improved, thanks to measurements of individual stellar orbits. The advent of adaptive optics technology has further revolutionized our studies of the Galactic center. In this talk, I will present the results of several new adaptive optics studies on (1) our current understanding of the galaxy’s central gravitational potential, (2) the puzzling problem of how young stars form in the immediate vicinity of the central black hole (3) the characteristics of the under-luminous emission associated with the central black hole (L = 10^-9 L_ed), and (4) the role of future large ground-based telescope to these studies.

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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