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Observing Supermassive Black Holes Across Cosmic Time: From Phenomenology to Physics

  • Andrea MerloniEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Lecture Notes in Physics book series (LNP, volume 905)

Abstract

In the last decade, a combination of high sensitivity and spatial resolution observations and of coordinated multi-wavelength surveys has revolutionized our view of extra-galactic black hole (BH) astrophysics. We now know that supermassive black holes reside in the nuclei of almost every galaxy, grow over cosmological times by accreting matter, interact and merge with each other, and in the process liberate enormous amounts of energy that influence dramatically the evolution of the surrounding gas and stars, providing a powerful self-regulatory mechanism for galaxy formation. The different energetic phenomena associated to growing black holes and Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), their cosmological evolution and the observational techniques used to unveil them, are the subject of this chapter. In particular, I will focus my attention on the connection between the theory of high-energy astrophysical processes giving rise to the observed emission in AGN, the observable imprints they leave at different wavelengths, and the methods used to uncover them in a statistically robust way. I will show how such a combined effort of theorists and observers have led us to unveil most of the SMBH growth over a large fraction of the age of the Universe, but that nagging uncertainties remain, preventing us from fully understating the exact role of black holes in the complex process of galaxy and large-scale structure formation, assembly and evolution.

Keywords

Black Hole Accretion Disc Accretion Rate Active Galactic Nucleus Black Hole Mass 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

I thank the editor, Francesco Haardt and all the organizers and students of the SIGRAV PhD school for the generous invitation to write this review and for a great and stimulating environment, during which this work was conceived. I also thank the editors for the patience and endurance they have demonstrated in coping with my delays. This work could not have been possible without the contribution from many collaborators, in particular Angela Bongiorno, Johannes Buchner, Marat Gilfanov, Sebastian Heinz, Marta Volonteri, who provided ideas, suggestions and material for this work. I also thank Philip Best, Murray Brightman, Marcella Brusa, Andrea Comastri, Ivan Delvecchio, Chris Done, Phil Hopkins, Antonis Georgakakis, Gabriele Ghisellini, Roberto Gilli, Kirpal Nandra, Paolo Padovani, Mara Salvato for the useful discussions.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max-Planck Institute of Extraterrestrial PhysicsGarchingGermany

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