Ryan W. Pfeifle
We welcome Ryan W. Pfeifle as our guest blogger. He received his B.S. in Physics from George Mason University (GMU) in 2017, and then stayed at GMU to continue onto his Ph.D and work with his current advisor on colliding galaxies and active galactic nuclei (AGNs). He is currently a third-year graduate research assistant in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at GMU. His primary focus is the identification and characterization of dual and triple AGNs in advanced mergers in an effort to understand the relationship between galaxy mergers and black hole growth. He has two recently published papers, one on their dual AGN program (published in April and available here), and one that is the focus of this press release, published in the Astrophysical Journal and available here. In addition to his research work, he is a tour guide at the GMU observatory in Fairfax, VA.
Over the past several decades, we have come to understand that supermassive black holes (SMBHs), with masses in the range of one million to several billion times the mass of our own sun, reside at the centers of most massive galaxies. Not only do we see these SMBHs in nearby galaxies, we also see them in galaxies as early as a few hundred million years after the Big Bang! Astronomers are still struggling to explain how these massive black holes could grow to these immense sizes so quickly, but one possible explanation lies in the interactions between galaxies.