Shaunak Modak

Schwarzschild Orbit Superposition Modeling of Galaxies and Supermassive Black Holes

Observations have demonstrated that almost all large galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their centers. Although supermassive black holes constitute only a small fraction of their host galaxys total mass, their mass correlates strongly with features of their host including morphology and galactic structure, so they have long been objects of interest for astrophysicists. The mass of a supermassive black hole can be estimated through studying stellar orbits within the galaxy. However, especially in the most massive elliptical galaxies, these dynamics can be extremely challenging to model. One promising technique resolving some of these challenges is the Schwarzschild method, which is advantageous because it is less computationally complex than other methods, and more easily adaptable to galaxies lacking simplifying symmetries. This work will consider a variety of possible improvements to simulation code that implements the Schwarzschild method, ranging from theoretical adjustments in how stellar orbits are generated and sampled to computational developments in accuracy and efficiency of the calculations.

Message to Sponsor

Anselm M&PS, thank you for this amazing opportunity! Participating in SURF provided me with the perfect stepping stone toward the independent research I hope to conduct in graduate school. With your funding, I was able to dive deeper into a field I love, and I will be able to continue my project throughout the coming year, culminating in a senior thesis. Overall, the program provided an extremely valuable learning experience, and I am truly grateful for having had the opportunity to participate!
  • Major: Physics, Math
  • Sponsor: Anselm MPS
  • Mentor: Chung-Pei Ma