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[*] Supermassive Black Hole Research: Session Overview
van der Marel R.P.
BAAS, 32, 2, 699, 2000 (AAS Meeting 196, 21.01)
© 2000. The American Astronomical Society. All Rights Reserved.


The past decade has seen tremendous progress in the search for massive black holes in galactic nuclei. While black holes have long been hypothesized as the engines that power active galactic nuclei, conclusive detections and mass measurements long remained elusive. This has now changed considerably, and little room is left for doubt that black holes do exist in galaxy centers. This is due to the fact that a variety of observational techniques have now come to fruition, including measurements of stellar proper motions in the center of our own galaxy, measurement of rotation velocities of water masers clouds, measurement of X-ray iron K emission line properties, and measurement of stellar and gas kinematics with HST. The session will discuss all of these techniques and their most recent results, and will focus in particular on the advances that have been enabled by the installation of the STIS spectrograph on HST. Questions in the field of supermassive black hole research are shifting more and more from individual objects to the demography of black holes in the Universe, to address the incidence of supermassive black holes, their mass distribution, the dependence on other galaxy properties, their influence on galaxy evolution, and relationship to the evolution of nuclear activity. STIS is crucial to address these questions, since it allows studies of large samples of galaxies in efficient manner. Emphasis will be given to results that have been obtained so far, as well as to the theoretical issues and uncertainties that are of relevance for a proper interpretation of the data. I will provide a brief overview of supermassive black hole research in general, aimed at providing listeners outside the subject area the context necessary for a proper understanding of the subsequent talks in the session.

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Last modified June 14, 2000.
Roeland van der Marel, marel@stsci.edu.
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