CORDIS - EU research results
CORDIS

How the monsters were made: the formation of the most massive black holes in the Universe

Project description

Discovering the secrets of super-massive black hole formation

Some extreme galaxies in the universe could build super-massive black holes (SMBHs) whose masses exceed 100 million solar masses within the first few billion years of cosmic history. Scientists are trying to discover how these individual extreme SMBHs formed so quickly as well as the accretion history of the wider SMBH population in the early universe. To help answer these questions, the EU-funded HIZRAD project intends to build a sample of radio selected active galactic nuclei in the early universe that reaches new areas of parameter space and is over 100 times larger than current samples. These data sets will result in the first robust measurements of the accretion and mass history of SMBHs in the early universe.

Objective

Every massive galaxy in the Universe has at its heart a super-massive black hole (SMBH), with some extreme galaxies able to build SMBH with masses in excess of 100 million solar masses within only the first few Gyr of cosmic history. How did these individual extreme SMBH form so quickly, and what was the accretion history of the wider SMBH population in the early Universe? As a probe of black-hole accretion that is not subject to dust obscuration, sensitive new radio continuum surveys offer a unique opportunity to study the first few Gyr of SMBH formation in unprecedented detail and answer these fundamental questions. This project will combine two surveys the participant has a leading role in, the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) Surveys Project and the WEAVE-LOFAR spectroscopic survey, to build a sample of radio selected active galactic nuclei in the early Universe that reaches new and extremely important areas of parameter space and is >100x larger than existing samples. The unprecedented scale and sensitivity of these datasets will result in the first robust measurements of the accretion and mass history of SMBH in the early Universe. This project will also discover the first sample of luminous radio galaxies within the Epoch of Reionization; an important breakthrough that opens an entirely new window onto the process of cosmic reionization - one of the outstanding current cosmological challenges. The University of Edinburgh is a leading centre for the study of galaxy and black-hole formation in the early Universe, both through radio continuum and optical spectroscopy surveys. The researcher is an expert in the optical astronomy techniques required to perform the proposed robust population studies and is uniquely placed to exploit the exquisite WEAVE-LOFAR data. Together, these transformational datasets and the complementary expertise of the host and researcher will result in world-leading research that has extensive impact within the wider astronomical community.

Coordinator

THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Net EU contribution
€ 212 933,76
Address
OLD COLLEGE, SOUTH BRIDGE
EH8 9YL Edinburgh
United Kingdom

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Region
Scotland Eastern Scotland Edinburgh
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 212 933,76