From August 8 to 13, our group taught two courses at the high-energy astrophysics school at ICTP-SAIFR. The first was taught by myself and gave a broad overview of the active galactic nuclei phenomenon, including blazars. The second course was about Fermi LAT observations and taught by Fabio Cafardo, a PhD student in the group who is working of gamma-ray astronomy.

Fabios’s lecture also included a fun hands-on tutorial, teaching the students to analyze gamma-ray observations of the blazar TXS 0506+056. This is the famous blazar which was observed to emit gamma-rays flares and produce a high-energy neutrino at the same time: the second source ever observed in multimessenger astronomy. The first was the neutron star collision observed in gravitational waves with LIGO/Virgo and electromagnetic radiation.

Here is the official abstract for the AGNs and blazars course:

I will give a broad overview of the phenomenology and theory behind the active galactic nuclei (AGN) phenomenon. I will give a particular emphasis on systems which produce relativistic jets such as blazars, given their importance in multimessenger astronomy. I will cover the basic physics of gas accretion and jet production from Kerr black holes. I will also give an overview of the electromagnetic signature from AGNs and blazars, focusing on their gamma-ray emission commonly observed with the Fermi, HESS, MAGIC telescopes, and in the future CTA.

And here is the official description of the Fermi LAT tutorial:

The Fermi Gamma-ray Observatory has revolutionized our understanding of the high-energy universe. Over the last 10 years, the Fermi Large Area Telescope has been observing the entire sky from space every three hours in the 100 MeV to 500 GeV energy range. In this lab activity, We will give a short presentation highlighting the main results and importance of the Fermi Telescope—particularly for blazar and dark matter indirect searches. The talk will be followed by a hands-on tutorial where the students will get familiar with the analysis of space-based gamma-ray observations. 

Here is the material that we covered:

  1. Active galactic nuclei and blazars (Nemmen). Two lectures, 3 hours
  2. Fermi LAT (Cafardo). Lecture, 1 hour
  3. Fermi LAT hands-on session (Cafardo). 1.5 hours

If you want to run tutorial #3 at home, you can download all the material from the third lecture and perform the analysis without needing to install a lot of additional software. We prepared the tutorial such that you only need to install one software and run an install script.

I suggested some reading for the students interested in diving deeper into AGN physics:

  1. Physical processes in active galactic nuclei, Blandford (cf. from p171 onwards in the PDF). Even though this is a quite dated treatment—from 20 years ago!—and a lot has changed since then, this paper does a great job in summarising the basic physics of the AGN phenomenon. 
  2. Relativistic jets in active galactic nuclei, arXiv:1812.06025. Up-to-date review about AGN jets
  3. Foundations of black hole accretion disk theory. Focuses on black hole accretion, with a general relativistic treatment

Here are some pictures from the event.

Rodrigo Nemmen and Pasquale Blasi tackling questions from the audience. Credit: Ivan Almeida.
Fabio Cafardo teaching the Fermi LAT hands-on tutorial. Credit: Rodrigo.
Another shot of Fabio during his course. Credit: Ivan.
Some of the diverse audience at the school. Credit: Fabio.

Thanks Fabio Iocco for the invitation. This was fun!

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