College - Author 1
College of Science and Mathematics
Department - Author 1
Degree Name - Author 1
BS in Physics
Vardha Bennert, College of Science and Mathematics, Physics Department
The Seoul AGN Monitoring Project, or SAMP for short, is an international project (PI Jonghak Woo from Korea) with the goal of measuring the masses of black holes residing in the center of massive active galactic nuclei (AGNs). AGNs are some of the brightest objects in the universe. Their light is attributed to the accretion of material onto the black hole. However, these objects are too distant to spatially resolve the gravitational sphere of influence of the black hole directly. Instead, we use a technique called reverberation mapping which observes the variability of the AGN power-law continuum emission and the time-delayed response of gas clouds ionized by the AGN that orbit the black hole inside the so-called broad-line region (BLR). Knowing the speed of light, the observed delay can be translated into the size of the broad-line region. Including the width of the broad emission lines, which is a tracer of the velocity of the BLR clouds, we can estimate the mass of the black hole. Photometry of the AGN optical continuum emission gathered from the 1m Nickel telescope at Lick Observatory is combined with spectroscopy of the BLR of the same AGNs obtained with the 3m Shane telescope at Lick Observatory. Students at Cal Poly have been in charge of the 1m Nickel telescope observations from January 2017 to September 2019, by operating the 1m telescope remotely from Cal Poly. In this thesis, I will cover the process of obtaining these optical images and analyze the continuum variability of the AGNs. In total, I present light curves for 18 AGNs, all of which show at least some degree of variability, promising successful black hole mass measurements when combined with spectroscopy results.