Bard Physics Professor Shuo Zhang Presents Research on Supermassive Black Hole at 2022 American Astronomical Society Press ConferenceANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College Assistant Professor of Physics Shuo Zhang has been invited by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) to present her most recent research on how surrounding molecular gas clouds offer insight into the activity history of Sgr A*, the now inactive supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Zhang’s talk, “Galactic Center Molecular Clouds: Storytellers of Past Outburst of the Galactic Center Supermassive Black Hole,” is being presented at a virtual AAS press conference to be held on Tuesday, January 11 from 4:15pm to 5:15pm ET via Zoom. For more information about the virtual press conference, click here.
Though inactive nowadays, traces of a glorious past of Sgr A* can be found in the surrounding molecular gas clouds, which reflect incoming X-ray emission from Sgr A* up to a few hundred years ago. Therefore, by studying X-ray emission from molecular clouds at different distances from Sgr A*, we can reconstruct the activity history of Sgr A* in the past few centuries. Shuo Zhang and her post-bac researcher Nathalie Jones ’21 have focused their study on a particular Galactic center molecular cloud, the “Bridge”. Their analysis on archival data by the NuSTAR telescope during 2012-2020, and the XMM-Newton telescope data during 2000-2020 clearly demonstrates an epic 20-year-long X-ray brightening of the “Bridge” molecular cloud, making it currently the brightest diffuse feature in the Sgr A* complex region. Continuous monitoring of this molecular cloud and capturing its peak luminosity will tell us how luminous Sgr A* used to be a couple dozen years ago, which is essential to understand the activity cycle of supermassive black holes. This project is supported by NASA NuSTAR Guest Observation grant #80NSSC20K0035.
“It is amazing to have these molecular gas clouds as storytellers of past activities of the monster black hole in the center of our Galaxy,” says Zhang.
About the Annual Conference of the American Astronomical Society
The American Astronomical Society is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, with a membership of 7,700 individuals with research and educational interests in astronomical sciences. The 239th meeting is the 2022 winter annual American Astronomical Society conference, which brings together the International astronomer community and shares the most recent discoveries and results in astronomy. Though the major meeting was canceled due to COVID situation, the press conference will take place virtually as planned.
For more information about this event, please contact AAS Press Officer Susanna Kohler at [email protected] or +1 202-328-2010 x127.
About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year, residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City. With the addition of the Montgomery Place estate, Bard’s campus consists of nearly 1,000 parklike acres in the Hudson River Valley. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with majors in more than 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 11 programs; nine early colleges; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on its 161-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College has expanded its mission as a private institution acting in the public interest across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs and increase access to liberal arts education. The undergraduate program at our main campus in upstate New York has a reputation for scholarly excellence, a focus on the arts, and civic engagement. Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. For more information about Bard College, visit bard.edu.
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