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Active galaxies provide a prime example of high energy processes operating in the Universe. This free course gives an overview of active galaxies, including the supermassive black holes that power the engines at their centres, and the emission processes by which we detect and study them. It also gives practice in mathematical techniques for analysing data and theoretical models.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- recognise the terminology which is used to describe the properties and behaviour of active galactic nuclei (AGN)
- manipulate numbers, algebraic symbols and mathematical functions in equations.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Meet your first active galactic nuclei
- 2 Black holes: a reminder
- 3 AGN reside at the centres of galaxies
- 4 Black holes at the centres of ordinary galaxies
- 5 Distances in extragalactic astronomy
- 6 The key questions
- 7 Continuum emission processes
- 7.1 Blackbody radiation
- 7.2 Free-free radiation
- 7.3 Polarization of electromagnetic radiation
- 7.4 Faraday depolarization
- 7.5 Emission from spiralling electrons: synchrotron radiation
- 7.6 Producing synchroton radiation in a laboratory
- 7.7 Radiation detection
- 7.8 Example 2 and questions
- 7.9 Compton scattering
- 8 Basic properties and historical perspective
- 9 Conclusion
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
An overview of active galaxies
This course begins by studying evidence leading to our basic hypothesis that active galactic nuclei (AGN) are accreting, supermassive black holes. It also covers some physics of radiation which you will need to be able to interpret the observed emission of AGN, and includes an examination of AGN.
You will be studying a young subject and there are fundamental issues which are still being vigorously debated by the experts and are subject to current research activity. Consequently, it is not possible to give clear definitive explanations of all aspects of the subject.
You may already have become accustomed to reading unfamiliar words and phrases. In this course, you will not only encounter new and specialised vocabulary, you will meet ideas which are currently being shaped and tested. Do not be dismayed if you fail to immediately grasp the underlying principles behind some of the material you will read: it is possible no-one has yet elucidated them!
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of Level 3 study in.
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Physics and Astronomy courses or view the range of currently available OU Physics and Astronomy courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 24th March 2016
Last updated on: Thursday, 24th March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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