Department of Astronomy Professor Charles Gammie has been selected for a prestigious Associate Research Appointment in the Center for Advanced Study (CAS) during the 2019-2020 academic year. Tenured faculty with winning proposals are appointed Associates and awarded one semester of release time to pursue their projects in the coming academic year. In accordance with the Center’s mission, these appointments provide an incentive to pursue the highest level of scholarly achievement. They also provide faculty members with an unusual opportunity to explore new ideas and demonstrate early results.
Professor Gammie’s CAS project develops the theoretical tools necessary to understand the expected first images of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Gravitational infall of surrounding matter into black holes leads to a swirling, flattened accretion disk that provides an observable signature of the “last gasp” of matter falling onto the hole. Professor Gammie has led the development of the most comprehensive accretion disk model to-date, which incorporates the physics of magnetized and likely relativistic gas flows in the context of Einstein gravity around accreting black holes. The objective is to capture the essential physics and explain how the disk evolves and processes material relative to the magnetic field and the local effect of immense gravity, which can cause important time differences and light wavelength shifts. As a key member of the Event Horizon Telescope project, expect to hear more about Professor Gammie’s research in the upcoming months.