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The Cosmic Growth of Super-Massive Black Holes


In the heart of every massive galaxy is a super-massive black hole (a million to a billion times the mass of the Sun) that is built up in mass over cosmic time by gas accretion. Using recently completed observations of thousands of accreting black holes over most of the age of the Universe; this project aims to measure the evolution of accretion in a number of different modes.


Professor Scott Croom.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The black holes at the centre of each galaxy have a profound impact on galaxy evolution. As gas accretes onto these black holes, it radiates energy, and may power relativistic jets. The energy from the radiation or jets can be deposited into the inter-stellar medium of the galaxy in question, heating the gas, and suppressing star formation. When the accretion is radiatively efficient, the accreting black holes can be seen over most of the observable Universe as quasars. When only the jets are visible, we observe the systems as radio galaxies, as the relativistic jets emit via the synchrotron process.

We are building large data-sets containing thousands of quasars and radio galaxies with the express aim of measuring how they evolve and what the physical processes are which drive the evolution. We can do this by studying how individual sub-populations evolve, what their environments are and the how the black holes interact with their host galaxy. We will build on this with a broad range of multi-wavelength observations (from X-ray to radio) using state-of-the-art astronomical facilities in Australia and overseas.

There are a number of projects available in this field including: detailed comparison of the evolution of accretion to current galaxy formation models; measuring the age of radio galaxies with multi-wavelength radio data; addressing how much accretion is obscured from our direct view by gas and dust; measuring the environments of quasars and radio-galaxies and many more.

Additional information

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1594

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