Frontiers Lecture: Collisions Around Supermassive Black Holes

Part of Frontiers Lectures

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Illustration of a black hole, pictured as a brightly colored spiral disk formation pulling material from a light colored star right next to it. M. Weiss/CXC/NASA
Gravitational waves from mergers of black holes have been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. But how did these black holes encounter each other?   

In a collaborative study between the Museum and City University of New York, astronomers Saavik Ford and Barry McKernan lead the team that has proposed a surprising answer: that black holes in gas disks around supermassive black holes behave surprisingly like growing planets orbiting in a disk around a star, encountering each other in spectacular collisions and growing in mass. In this talk, Dr. Ford and Dr. McKernan will shed new light on the fundamental nature of black holes, their mergers and growth, as well as their role in shaping the universe.