Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory

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Black Holes explained by an astrophysicist

Alessandro copertina

What is really a Black Hole? How can we detect its presence in the Universe? How do Black Holes influence the matter that sorrounds them and the life of galaxies that host them?
If you ever asked yourself these questions and want to know more, whether you are a scientist or not, you will find both historical and state-of-the-art answers in the book "I Buchi Neri"("The Black Holes") written by Alessandro Marconi and edited by Il Mulino for the series "Farsi un'idea".

The book starts off with the origin of the concept of "black hole" and provides a mathematical description of these objects and of the physics that regulates the accretion process onto compact objects such as the black holes. This lays the foundations to tackle the main topic of the book: the supermassive black holes that live at the center of galaxies and influence their evolution. Alessandro Marconi explains the most modern techniques to detect the presence of a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy, to estimate its mass and whether it is growing fast giving rise to "violent" manifestations known as Active Galactic Nuclei.

The extreme physical conditions in their surroundings make supermassive black holes extremely fascinating objects in themselves. But they also have a significant influence on galaxy evolution, despite their much smaller size with respect to their host galaxy. Indeed a tight correlation is known that links the mass of the black hole with the global properties of the host galaxy. Moreover, the energy involved in the processes regulating Active Galactic Nuclei can impact the galaxy ability to keep on forming stars and hence its future evolution.

Alessandro Marconi, by explaining all this, leads the reader through a fascinating journey at the center of our own Galaxy, where a supermassive black hole sits, and toward an understanding of galaxy formation and evolution in general, in which supermassive black holes appear to have a central role.

The book is written in a scientific yet simple language, accessible to readers interested in Astronomy and Black Holes in particular with basic knowledge of mathematics and physics.


Alessandro Marconi is an Associate Professor at the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of Florence and collaborates with the Astrophysical Observatory of Arcetri.


Edited by Anna Gallazzi