You will learn how massive galaxies and black holes form and evolve together in the early universe, and how active black holes can affect the growth of their parent galaxies.

Today you will learn

  • What is astronomy about?
  • What tools do astronomers use?
  • Why do we need space based observatories?
  • How do stars form and what happens to them?
  • How do black holes form?
  • How can we "see" black holes?
  • How do galaxies and black holes grow and live together?


You will learn about stars and how they form and evolve. You will learn about how black holes form, and how the most massive black holes and galaxies form and live together. You will learn about some of the evidence that astronomers use to better understand the universe..

Student Lecture Notes

1. Why do we study Astronomy?


2. What tools do astronomers' use?

A. Describe the electromagnetic spectrum

B. What do spectra tell us?

C. How do astronomers observe stars and galaxies?

D. Why do we need observatories in space?


3. How do astronomers analyze their data?


4. How do stars form?

A. What happens to a sun-like star?

B. What happens to a more massive star?

C. What is a neutron star?

D. How can we see a neutron star?


5. How do black holes form?

A. How can we see black holes?

B. How large are black holes?


6. What are Newton's laws?

A. How can we calculate the mass of a black hole?

B. What is the mass of the black hole at the center of our Galaxy?


7. How do galaxies grow?

A. How do black holes grow?

B. What are accretion disks?

C. What are jets?

D. What lies ahead?


Astrophysical constants needed to calculate the mass of a black hole

Velocity of light: c = 3.00 x 10**(8) m/s
Gravitational constant: G = 6.67 x 10**(-11) N m**2 kg**(-2)
Mass of our Sun: Msun = 2.00 x 10**(30) kg
Mass of the Milky Way: Mmw = 2 x 10**(11) Msun
Astronomical unit: 1 AU = 1.50 x 10**(11) m
Light year: 1lyr = 0.95 x 10**(16) m
Parsec: 1 pc = 3.09 x 10**(16) m = 3.26 lyr
Distance to Galactic Center = 8,500 pc

Speaker Bios

Dr.Wil Van Breugel

Research Astronomer Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and
Adjunct Professor in the School of Natural Sciences UC Merced

Wil van Breugel has more 25 years of experience in conducting astronomical research using a wide variety of telescopes on earth and in space. He obtained his Ph.D. at Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands, where he discovered that some galaxies exhibit strong radio emission, which is powered by jets emanating from massive black holes at their centers (`radio galaxies'). After his Ph.D. he held postdoctoral fellowships at the Kitt Peak National Observatory and the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. During that time he used the Kitt Peak 2.1-m and 4-m and Steward 2.5-m telescopes, as well as the world's most powerful radio imaging telescope, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico. By combining radio and optical observations he found that radio jets often interact violently with gas clouds in the interstellar medium of their parent galaxies. Shocks from jet/cloud collisions heat up and entrain this previously invisible, cold gas. The heated gas can be observed on large telescopes using special filters.

After his postdoctoral years Wil became a research astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley. In collaboration with astronomy graduate students he used the Lick Observatory 3-m telescope for a systematic study of the optical properties of radio galaxies. This resulted in the discovery that the optical and radio emission from radio galaxies are closely aligned due to outflow from the jets and radiation from hidden, active black holes (`quasars') interacting with surrounding material. This interaction might in some cases even trigger star formation along the path of the jets.

Approximately 15 years ago Wil joined LLNL as a research astronomer at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. He is now using the world's largest optical, twin 10-m telescopes of the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii as well as the Hubbles Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory to study the formation and evolution of the most massive galaxies and clusters of galaxies in the early Universe.

Since 2004 Wil is also Adjunct Professor in the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced, where he participates in teaching astronomy and astrophysics in a general education course.

Lawrence Dean

After years of teaching, research and continuing graduate education at the University of Oregon, Washington State, Chico State and Stanford he was asked to teach a physics course in a high school that had lost its physics teacher. This job was so challenging and enjoyable that he decided to specialize in high school physics teaching.

In order to keep on the cutting edge of this field he engaged in physics research projects every summer, often with a grant he received that allowed him to bring his top students with him. Topics of his research work included electron-positron pair production, nuclear waste disposal, air particulates analysis, cosmic ray detection, and the creation and decay analysis of exotic isotopes.

At present Lawrence teaches physics only to 9th graders at the Athenian School in Danville. He believes that physics should be introduced as early as possible since it provides a foundation for all other sciences.


  • Ablation: The process of removing material from a surface. In photonics applications, the material is typically removed by vaporization (conversion of material in a solid or liquid phase to a gaseous phase).
  • Acoustic: Of or relating to sound.
  • Acoustic Waves (also called Sound Waves): Longitudinal waves – waves which consist of particles vibrating in the same direction as the wave is travelling, creating areas of high pressure (compressions) and low pressure (rarefactions). Compressions are regions along the wave where the pressure and density of the molecules is higher than when no wave is passing. Rarefactions are regions along a longitudinal wave where the pressure and density of the molecules is lower than when no wave is passing.
  • Antibody: Any of a large number of proteins that are produced normally by specialized immune cells after stimulation by an antigen (e.g., body invaders such as viruses or bacteria) and act specifically against the antigen in an immune response.
  • Antigen: Any molecule capable of stimulating an immune response.
  • Artery: An elastic, muscular-walled tube that transports blood away from the heart to all other parts of the body.
  • Bifurcation: The point at which a single object divides into two branches.
  • Biophotonics: The science of generating and harnessing light to image, detect, and manipulate biological materials. Biophotonics is used in biology to study the structure and function of proteins, DNA, and other important molecules. In medicine, biophotonics allows the more detailed study of tissue and blood, both at the macro and micro level, for the purpose of diagnosing and treating diseases from cancer to stroke in less invasive ways.
  • Cancer: A localized growth from uncontrolled cell reproduction, which can (if untreated) spread to other parts of the body.
  • Catheter: A thin, flexible plastic tube.
  • Cavitation: The process by which a localized region of low pressure in a liquid causes the formation of pockets of vapor (gas).
  • Cavitation Bubble: A pocket of vapor produced by cavitation (see above). Cavitation bubbles are usually short-lived and collapse forcefully when they move from the low-pressure region in which they were formed.
  • Chromophore: A chemical that absorbs light of a specific wavelength.
  • Compressive Wave: A longitudinal wave (see “Acoustic Waves” above) propagated by the elastic compression (squeezing and re-bounding) of the medium.
  • Electromagnetic Radiation: Energy, propagated through space or through material media in the form of an advancing disturbance in electric and magnetic fields existing in space or in the media.
  • Electromagnetic Spectrum: The entire range of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation extending from the shortest cosmic rays, through gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, visible radiation, infrared radiation, and including microwaves and all other wavelengths of radio energy. The shorter the wavelength, the more energetic the radiation.
  • Fluorescence: Luminescence (light emission) that is caused by the absorption of radiation at one wavelength followed by nearly immediate re-radiation usually at a longer wavelength and that ceases almost immediately when the incident radiation stops.
  • Frequency (of waves): The number of oscillations which occur in one second when waves pass a given point. It is equal to the number of wavelengths per second.
  • Hemoglobin: An iron-containing protein in red blood cells that reversibly binds O2 and transports it to body tissues. It also assists in CO2 transport from the tissues back to the lungs.
  • Laser: A device that produces a highly directional and intense beam of coherent light. Light waves are said to be “coherent” when their frequencies are equal and they are in phase, that is, their peaks and troughs are perfectly in step with each other. The word “laser” is an acronym for light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation.
  • Mechanical: Caused by, resulting from, or relating to a process that involves a purely physical as opposed to a chemical change.
  • Microactuator: A small mechanical device for moving or controlling something.
  • Monochromatic: Light of a single wavelength (or, equivalently, of a single frequency).
  • Occlusion: An obstruction.
  • Optical Fiber: A thin, transparent fiber of glass or plastic designed to confine and direct the propagation of ultraviolet, visible, or infrared electromagnetic radiation.
  • Optics: The science that deals with the genesis and propagation of light, the changes that it undergoes and produces, and other phenomena closely associated with it.
  • Pathogen: A specific causative agent (as a bacterium or virus) of disease.
  • Photo: Of or pertaining to light.
  • Photon: A fixed quantity of light energy. The shorter the wavelength of light, the greater the energy of a photon.
  • Plasma: A collection of charged particles containing about equal numbers of positive ions and electrons and exhibiting some properties of a gas but differing from a gas in being a good conductor of electricity and in being affected by a magnetic field.
  • Shape Memory Polymers: Special plastic materials able to change shape in response to temperature. These plastics have “memory” that allows them to be deformed into a temporary configuration and then be restored to the original parent geometry by applying heat.
  • Stress Wave: Pressure wave. In the context of the photo-mechanical stress waves, the "wave" typically has compressive (positive pressure) and tensile (negative pressure) components.
  • Stroke: The death of brain tissue resulting from lack of blood flow and insufficient oxygen to the brain. A stroke can be either ischemic or hemorrhagic. In an ischemic stroke, the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off because either atheroschlerosis (fatty material accumulates under the inner lining of the arterial wall) or a blood clot has blocked a blood vessel. In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel bursts, preventing normal flow and allowing blood to leak into an area of the brain and destroy it.
  • Tensile Wave: Low pressure component of a stress wave that pulls material apart (as opposed to compressing or squeezing it).
  • Thrombolysis: The breaking up of a blood clot.
  • Thrombolytic Drug: A drug that dissolves blood clots and restores blood flow in blocked arteries.
  • Thrombus: A blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel.
  • Vaporization: The process of converting material in a solid or liquid phase to a gaseous phase.
  • Vascular: Of or relating to a channel for the conveyance of a body fluid (such as blood of an animal or sap of a plant) or to a system of such channels.
  • Vein: A blood vessel that returns blood to the heart.
  • Visible Light: Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 700 nanometers.
  • Wave: A disturbance or variation that transfers energy progressively from point to point in a medium.
  • Waveguide: A device designed to confine and direct the propagation of electromagnetic waves.
  • Wavelength: The distance between adjacent peaks on a wave.