Visitor on May and June

Raniere de Menezes obtained his PhD in our group, and after doing a postdoc in Germany he will be visiting our group on May and June. Raniere will be working on different subjects involving gamma-ray astronomy, AGNs and (surprise) stellar clusters. We are a black hole group, but we welcome diversity in all its aspects — including the diversity of science subjects. Welcome back, Raniere!

Trabalho de doutoranda do grupo é capa do Jornal da USP

Os resultados do projeto de mestrado de Roberta Duarte, atual doutoranda no Grupo de Buracos Negros, foi destaque no Jornal da USP. A pesquisa consistiu da aplicação pioneira de inteligência artificial para simular um buraco negro interagindo com o seu meio ambiente.

Capa do Jornal da USP com o destaque para a pesquisa de Roberta Duarte, doutoranda no Grupo de Buracos Negros.

O artigo reportando os resultados da pesquisa foi recentemente aceito para publicação na revista MNRAS.

Parabéns Roberta pela mais do que merecida repercussão do trabalho!

Mapa do céu em raios gama: Threads no twitter e papel de parede

Para quem desejar mais informações de forma sucinta sobre o mapa mais detalhado já feito do céu em raios gama, preparado pelo nosso grupo usando treze anos de observações do Telescópio Espacial Fermi, vejam as threads abaixo.

Quer usar a nossa imagem como papel de parede do seu smartphone ou PC? Siga os links abaixo.

New organizer for journal club

Big news for our beloved black hole journal club meetings! Ivan will be now the new organizer of this important event in our department.

Fabio Cafardo was in charge of organizing the JC between 2016 and February 2021. Since he is graduating very soon, we now welcome Ivan Almeida to the important role of being the JC organizer. Thanks Fabio for being such a fantastic organizer, paying attention to keeping it on time, asking a lot of questions and making it overall fun! We will miss you.

Welcome Ivan!

Stellar-mass black holes welcome Pedro!

Hi everyone!

My name is Pedro Naethe Motta and I’m a graduate (M.Sc.) student at IAG – USP. I’ve recently graduated in physics at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in beautiful Rio de Janeiro.

As most undergraduate physics students, I started my journey aiming to understand and study astrophysics. At first, I didn’t have the chance to do that, so I worked in a project about “chaotic dynamical systems” in the mathematics department, deviating from the original plan.

In the meantime, I found out that I didn’t want to pursue this academical journey. I undertook a semester in General Relativity and reached out to my professor, who gave me the opportunity to work and build my undergraduate thesis in astrophysics. My thesis was about the tidal effects in a neutron stars’ binary system and how these effects can help to unravel mysteries of how matter behave in neutron stars’ interior. Since then, I’m passionate about General Relativity and astrophysics.

I’m recently starting my journey at the IAG’s Black Hole Group, studying state transitions in black hole binaries using General Relativity Magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD) under the supervision of Professor Rodrigo Nemmen.

Artur defends his MsC dissertation

The black hole group has a new master: Artur Vemado defended his MsC dissertation, entitled “radiative cooling and state transitions in stellar mass black holes”. The defense was very successful.

Here, Artur reported his numerical simulations of black hole accretion flows where he incorporated radiative cooling (with some approximations otherwise the problem is essentially intractable!). We observe the self-consistent emergence of a hot corona enveloping a cold thin accretion disk. Artur quantified the inner radius of the thin disk, the size of the corona, and how these properties respond to varying the mass accretion rate onto the black hole. The resulting simulated black holes are similar to observations of stellar mass black holes in binary systems.

We are looking forward to reporting these exciting results on the emergence of the corona (not the covid-19!) and truncated disk in an upcoming publication.

Many thanks to FAPESP funding through grant 2017/25710-1.

Dr. Gustavo R. R. Soares, PhD in Astrophysics

Congratulations to the now Dr. Gustavo R. R. Soares, for a successful PhD thesis defense! 🎉🍾

The thesis is entitled “Accretion discs, jets, and black hole spins: a study of blazars” and was done under my supervision. The whole defense was entirely online, following the social distancing recommendations of the World Health Organization and the São Paulo State government, in order to ensure the safety of all involved with respect to COVID-19.

The defense lasted for almost five hours (!!), with the thesis committee members in two countries—Brasil and US—and in three states in Brasil: Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Gustavo presenting his thesis work

Thanks to Dr. Soares’s work, we now we know a bit more about the role of black holes in the universe, and how the supermassive ones power relativistic jets.

Gustavo will begin a postdoc at Oregon State University in the Fall. We are all wishing Gustavo a huge success for his future career!

Our thanks to the Brazilian science funding agencies CAPES, CNPq and FAPESP. Without them, this work would not have been possible.

Paper: Black hole growth in high redshift radio-loud quasars studied with the ESO Very Large Telescope

Our paper, VLT/SINFONI study of black hole growth in high redshift radio-loud quasars from the CARLA survey”has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the pre-print appeared on astro-ph today. The paper was led by former graduate student Murilo Marinello, and this work formed a major part of his PhD dissertation published in April this year.

The new study focused on 35 distant, radio-loud quasars, the majority of which were selected from the Clusters Around Radio-Loud AGN (CARLA) survey. These quasars were known to have large black hole masses, emit luminous radio emission, and tend to be found in dense regions of the early universe. Therefore, they are believed to be good candidates for the distant progenitors of massive (elliptical) galaxies that dominate the universe today. The masses of their supermassive black holes had previously been estimated using the virial black hole mass method applied to their SDSS spectra. Due to their high redshifts, however, the only emission line available to make these measurements in these optical SDSS spectra was the CIV line. This line is known to be affected by non-gravitational effects (winds or outflows) and is thus not optimal for the virial black hole mass estimate. In this project, we therefore re-observed the quasars in the near-infrared using the SINFONI spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope in Chile. This allowed us to access the redshifted Ha broad emission line, and thus determine the black hole masses more accurately. This makes a big difference, as can be seen in the figure below showing the nice symmetric Ha line on the top and the distorted CIV line at the bottom for one of our quasars:


Together with a determination of the accretion rates of the quasars, which can be estimated from their luminosities, the new black hole masses were used to also derive the growth histories of these supermassive black holes. One major finding was that if these quasars had always been accreting at the same rates as measured at the current time, it would not have been possible for them to obtain their high observed masses within the cosmic time available since the Big Bang. The logical conclusion is thus that these quasars must have experienced a phase of much faster growth in the past. This can be nicely illustrated in the following figure:


The red points are the CARLA quasars from this study. The black solid lines show the growth tracks we found to be the ones describing their most likely histories. These tracks consist of two phases: a rapid growth phase starting from a one thousand solar mass black hole seed at z ~ 20, growing at the Eddington limit to a hundred million or more solar masses at z ~ 6, followed by a second, slower phase at the observed lower Eddington ratios until z ~ 2-3. As such, it is possible that the CARLA quasars are direct descendants of the luminous quasars found at z ~ 6-7.

In the local universe, there is a strong correlation between the masses of the supermassive black holes and the masses of their host galaxies. Since the more massive galaxies are also found, on average, in more massive dark matter halos, there is an indirect connection between the mass of the black hole and the mass of its halo. We therefore also tested whether the black holes in the CARLA quasars already “know” that they are located in dense galaxy environments:


We found a weak, low significance correlation between the black hole masses and the surface density of galaxies that surround them (the latter is a measure of the environment or halo mass of the CARLA quasars), and therefore do not find strong evidence that the most massive CARLA quasars are also in the most dense environments or massive halos. However, these galaxy surface densities had been previously determined with the Spitzer Space Telescope as part of the CARLA project, and are not very precise. In the future, we will therefore focus on trying to obtain more precise measurements of the environments of the CARLA quasars, and test again for possible correlations between black hole mass and environment.


Massive presence of the group at the Brazilian Astronomical Society Meeting

The Black Hole Group had a massive presence at the 43th meeting of the Brazilian Astronomical Society—Sociedade Astronômica Brasileira, SAB.

After Marta Volonteri’s review talk on the cosmic evolution of massive black holes, Fabio gave a presentation about the current status of his analysis of Fermi LAT observations of the Galactic Center—we are finishing the first paper of the series which should be submitted very soon.

After Fabio’s talk, we’ve had Ivan’s talk on his numerical hydrodynamical simulations of radiatively inefficient accretion flows and their winds.

Roberta Pereira presented her poster on applying deep learning to predict the future of accreting black holes, which are an extreme example of spatiotemporally chaotic systems.

Finally, Gustavo won one of the best poster prizes at the meeting, and was awarded a talk at the meeting. Wait, is that an award? 🙂

Gustavo Soares’s talk at the 43th SAB meeting.