Rutgers University Department of Physics and Astronomy

The 2007 Henry R. and Gladys V. Irons Lecture
in Physics and Astronomy

The Irons Lectures are talks intended for the general public: high school students and teachers, college students and teachers, friends, neighbors, and anyone interested in science and science education.

Professor Reinhard Genzel

Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching
University of California, Berkeley

Black Holes in Galaxies

View or listen to the talk, plus questions and answers afterward
(online lectures produced by
The Laboratory for Computer Science Research)
Audio only (mp3) (75M)
Audio plus synchronized slides -- 320x240 (110M)
Audio plus synchronized slides -- 640x480 (122M)

Several decades ago, astronomers discovered that certain sources once believed to be peculiar stars within our own galaxy (the Milky Way) in fact have vastly greater distances and luminosities. These "quasars" indeed turn out to be the most luminous objects in the Universe. But what causes them to produce such enormous quantities of radiation? Since their discovery, accumulating evidence has suggested that quasars are powered by matter spiraling in towards massive black holes- objects whose gravitational pull is so powerful that not even light can escape. I will discuss recent, ultra-high-resolution observations with large ground-based telescopes that prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the center of our own Milky Way hosts precisely such a massive black hole. These observations also indicate that our galaxy's central black hole may be rotating rapidly. I will close by discussing our present knowledge about the formation and evolution of these massive black holes in the early Universe.

Professor Reinhard Genzel is a director of the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, as well as a professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. His research on the origin and evolution of galaxies and the black holes lying at their centers, which encompasses the development of novel instrumentation, has been recognized with numerous awards including the 2003 Balzan Prize.

Please note that Professor Genzel will also present a special research seminar on Monday March 5 at 12:00 P.M., in Serin Laboratory Room 385E, on "Dynamics of High Redshift Galaxies".
NEW! Movies used in Professor Genzel's talk:

  • You may download a flyer (PDF format) for the Irons Lecture, including driving directions, suitable for copying and distribution.
  • You may download a copy of the slides(PDF format), to follow along with the audio version, if you wish.