Emission-lines from AGN&Starbursts: new steps to understanding their message

Grants and Contracts Details


Overview This is a time of unprecedented discovery in understanding the central regions of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and Starburst galaxies across the electromagnetic spectrum. Reverberation mapping of the Broad Lined Region (AGN), using optical H I lines at low redshift, and collisionally excited lines at high redshift, have led to catalogues of black hole masses, in turn making possible investigations of key questions such as the evolution of black hole mass, the role of AGN feedback, and the interplay between the evolution of the black hole and surrounding galaxy. ALMA makes it possible to routinely study radio recombination lines from both AGN and Starburst galaxies, probing sources of ionizing radiation in dust-shrouded regions. ALMA can further probe molecular emission from both star-forming regions and the AGN molecular torus. This project develops the theoretical tools needed to understand these observations. Intellectual impacts The gas emitting recombination or collisionally excited lines in the BLR, radio recombination lines, dust emission, and molecular lines, is far from equilibrium and is best understood with the help of numerical simulations. This project develops and applies the theoretic tools needed to interpret such observations. The key tool we will use to analyze the AGN spectra is our plasma simulation code Cloudy. It has been designed to solve these plasma, chemistry, radiation transport, and dynamics problems simultaneously and self consistently, building from the foundation of individual atomic and molecular processes. The advances we undertake are motivated by recent discussions with the dense plasma / magnetic fusion communities. Methods and data they have developed will dramatically improve the numerical simulations at surprisingly low cost. These significantly improved simulations will be applied to our previously developed "LOC" model of the BLR, and to simulations of molecular regions. Cloudy is one of more widely used theory codes in astrophysics with roughly 200 papers per year citing its documentation. Through this community use, this project will have an impact well beyond the original research performed by the Cloudy team. Broader impacts Cloudy "summer schools" are held every two years. Participants study the Osterbrock & Ferland graduate text on AGN and the ISM, do "hands-on" problems exercising Cloudy, and break up into smaller teams to do joint research on topics of their choosing. Cloudy is a significant part of international graduate education with many students using it in the PhD. A discussion board is maintained on the web where users, most frequently graduate students at other universities, can ask questions. Additionally, I am now working with three University of Kentucky graduate students. REU are employed each summer. They learn both advanced C++ coding methods, work on astrophysical problems, and frequently publish papers. Public outreach centers through our MacAdam student observatory. Public talks are given, along with special programs aimed at local students.
Effective start/end date9/1/148/31/18


  • National Science Foundation: $486,286.00


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