#AthenaNuggets 48: Mapping the Surroundings of Supermassive Black Holes, by Stefano Bianchi

#AthenaNuggets 48 deals with Supermassive Black Holes (SMBHs) present in Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN). Its X-ray emission is a unique feature and enables to pierce the inner regions close to the SMBHs.

Left: Athena simulated color-coded image of a nearby Seyfert 2 a typical X-ray obscured AGN. The soĆżt X-rays (red) trace a biconical outflow driven by the AGN which impacts all over the host galaxy (indicated by the white contours). Right-top: Athena simulated profile of the iron fluorescence line arising from different regions around the SMBH: the X-IFU high spectral resolution allows for the separation of all components. Right-bottom: X-IFU simulated spectrum of a part of the plume of ionized emission south of the nucleus: the contributions from shocked thermal emission and gas photoionized by the AGN can be clearly separated. Figure adapted from Cappi et al. (2013).

Supermassive black holes are ubiquitous in the center of galaxies, including our own Milky Way. Although their gravitational sphere of influence is tiny with respect to that of the total mass of their hosts, their overall impact on the evolution and growth of galaxies is thought to be crucial. This ‘feedback’ arises when the SMBH accretes matter, becoming an ‘Active Galactic Nucleus’, or AGN. The matter falls into an ‘accretion disk’ orbiting the SMBH while converting its gravitational energy into radiation, jets and outflows, which then interact with the surrounding environment from nearby to galactic scales and beyond. Detailed mapping of the neighbourhood of these SMBHs would achieve a large leap forward in the understanding of the accretion flow around AGN and their corresponding role in shaping the Universe.

Athena will establish a real breakthrough in this field, thanks to the high energy resolution and collecting area of the Athena/X-IFU, which will link their high imaging and timing capabilities.

Read more here: https://www.the-athena-x-ray-observatory.eu/resources/nuggets/54-resources/nuggets/1077-athenanuggets-48-mapping-the-surroundings-of-supermassive-black-holes,-by-stefano-bianchi.html