At the end of our press releases we usually add a paragraph or two touting RIT’s reputation in computing, engineering, imaging technology and fine and applied arts, among other areas. Some would argue the list should include “supermassive black holes” or “black hole research”—and with good reason.
RIT’s plunge into astrophysics over the last five or so years is attracting attention in big ways.
On Nov. 1, Nature published a paper by RIT physicists Stuart Young, David Axon, Andy Robinson and colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire confirming theories suggesting that a supermassive black hole can produce powerful winds that shape its surrounding galaxy and which regulate its own growth. (This is only the second time RIT professors were featured in Nature. Scientists Joel Kastner and Michael Richmond were published in the journal in 2004.)
The RIT team used a specialized technique called polarimetry to study the polarized light from active galactic nuclei (such as quasars) and to trace the gas launching vertically from the disk of gas (the quasar’s “engine”) surrounding the black hole. No one has done this before now. The results confirm theories and provide another clue to how the universe formed.
To hear a podcast interview with Andy Robinson about black holes, quasars and the winds they produce, go to http://www.universetoday.com/2007/11/02/podcasts-rising-winds-from-supermassive-black-holes/