Tristan Weaver

NuSTAR Space Telescope (Image credit NASA)This is my third summer conducting research in the Urry Group, and I have Dr. Mislav Baloković as my research mentor. My research is to analyze X-ray data from IRAS 09104+4109, an exceptionally luminous and obscured Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN). AGNs are among the most energetic objects in the Universe. They form around Supermassive Black Holes (SMBHs). At the center of each major galaxy, it is believed that there lies a SMBH. Most of these SMBH lie dormant, but when they actively accrete, infalling matter must release energy to decrease its angular momentum. This energy is radiated away as high energy light which we can see, and oftentimes the energy radiated away eclipses that of the AGN’s host galaxy. AGNs are of interest to astrophysicists because they represent an important step in their host galaxies’ evolutions. Specifically, it is thought that obscured AGNs (are those surrounded by clouds of gas and dust that makes it more difficult for light to pass through) could lead to a better understanding of SMBH formation - an open question.

IRAS 09104+4109 is a highly obscured AGN which is also particularly luminous and close to us, giving us an opportunity to gather better quality data than if it were dim or far away. I have been working on fitting an X-ray spectrum (intensity of light vs. wavelength) from various sources including 120,000 seconds of novel data from the NuSTAR space telescope gathered as a result of a proposal by Dr. Baloković. I am hoping to produce a good geometrical fit of IRAS 09104+4109, which would give us a better idea of the shape of the gas and dust surrounding the AGN.

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