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Vivienne Baldassare

NSF Fellowship | Supermassive black holes in dwarf galaxies | Advisor: Elena Gallo

PhD Research: Vivienne Baldassare is studying supermassiveblack holes at the centers of dwarf galaxies. Sheuses data from the Magellan telescopes to search forsignatures of black holes consuming material at a vigorousrate. By identifying these elusive objects and studyingtheir properties, she hopes to learn more about how blackholes and galaxies grow together over cosmic time.

Exciting Discovery: Baldassare and her advisor recently discovered the smallest black hole ever observed at the center of a galaxy. Every large galaxy, including our own Milky Way, is believed to have a supermassive black hole at its core. The recently discovered object is one of the first to be identified in a dwarf galaxy. The findings illuminate for astronomers important similarities between galaxies of vastly different scales. And because the dwarf galaxy, called RGG 118, is so small, it’s unlikely that it has ever merged with other galaxies, so it gives researchers a window to a younger universe.

Why Michigan Astronomy?

Valuable Experience: “Grad students are valued and supported at Michigan. You’re not only encouraged and given the skills to become an independent researcher, you’re given the valuable experiences and access to resources and facilities to really make it happen.”