Supermassive Black Holes in Bulgeless and Dwarf Galaxies: A Multi-Wavelength Investigation




Secrest, Nathan

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Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are now understood to reside at the centers of nearly all major galaxies in the Universe. From studies of high-redshift quasars, we understand that SMBHs formed very early in the Universe's history, and well-studied correlations between other properties of galaxies, such as their morphologies, star formation rate, and merger history, with their central SMBH shows that SMBHs played a key role in the evolution of galaxies. The fact that the post-Big Bang Universe was extremely uniform and homogeneous presents a major mystery: How did SMBHs millions to billions of times as massive as the Sun form in such a short time? Given the theoretical limit at which a black hole can accrete material, it is not plausible that SMBHs could have formed through the conventional route: the end stage of the lifecycle of a massive star. Rather, there are two major theories for the formation of SMBHs, each with its own prediction for the black hole mass distribution and occupation fraction in the local Universe. Understanding this mass distribution and occupation fraction is therefore imperative to understanding the formation of SMBHs, the quasars that reveal their presence in the early Universe, and ultimately the evolution of galaxies to the present day. While large SMBHs in major, bulge-dominated galaxies are relatively easy to detect and characterize, this population of SMBHs is understood to have been built up largely through black hole merger events that erase any information about the progenitor black holes' masses. We must therefore search for SMBHs in late-type, bulgeless, and dwarf galaxies, which are much more likely to have had a relatively quiet, merger-free history, in order to glimpse the properties of the `seed' black holes that led to the buildup of SMBHs during the earliest epoch of the Universe. In this thesis, I will discuss my contributions to the understanding of this question, as well as what questions remain to be answered and the future of research in this field.



Astrophysics, Astronomy, Physics, Active galactic nuclei, Black holes, Extragalactic, Galaxies, Infrared astronomy, X-ray astronomy