CORDIS - EU research results

The cosmic evolution of massive black holes

Final Report Summary - MBHG (The cosmic evolution of massive black holes)

Massive black holes of millions of solar masses and above populate the centers of today's galaxies, including the Milky Way, and shone as quasars in the past; the massive black holes that we detect in nearby bulges are the remnants of this fiery past. The masses of black holes in local galaxies also define clear correlations with the properties of their hosts, showing that the growth of black holes is intimately linked to the one of their hosts, however, little is known about how they form and interact with their hosts in different environments, especially in at early cosmic epochs. In this project we have undertaken a theoretical investigation on the formation of massive black holes and their growth inside galaxies using cosmological hydrodynamical simulations and semi analytical models.
We have followed the evolution of the galaxy/black hole system from the epoch of black hole formation to today, in different types of galaxies. We have studied the connection between black hole formation, the star formation history of the host and the cosmic environment. We have then expanded into the role of environment on black hole growth, especially for the first, small, galaxies at early cosmic times. We have also explored the evolution of massive black holes during galaxy mergers, focusing on both dynamics and accretion properties. On the one hand we have investigated when massive black holes light up as active galactic nuclei during galaxy mergers, on the other hand we have explored the conditions for effective pairing of massive black holes.
In relation to the state of the art, our studies have focused on the astro-physical detail, e.g. high spatial and temporal resolution to be able to track faithfully the properties of gas, stars and black holes. We have also highlighted the connection between empirical, (semi)analytical and numerical approaches, in order to obtain a comprehensive view of the evolution of black holes in galaxies.
By studying black hole mergers and the growth of black holes in galaxies, this project has provided the theoretical framework for planning future European facilities such as ATHENA and eLISA, thus improving the long-term career prospects for the fellow.
These studies have fostered and strengthened collaborations at the host Institution, where the fellow holds a permanent position and is fully integrated.