Fingerprinting the first massive black holes in the Universe

Name of applicant

Marianne Vestergaard




University of Copenhagen


DKK 10,000,000



Type of grant

Semper Ardens: Accomplish


We will determine the properties of line-emitting gas in the vicinity of the very first supermassive black holes observed in the Universe. By determining how the gas is distributed and move we can weigh the black holes very accurately and determine how the black hole interacts with and affects its environment. From this we will learn the role that these black holes play in shaping our Universe.


New cutting-edge instruments, like the James Webb Space Telescope and ESO's GRAVITY+ interferometer, are providing data that require advanced analysis techniques to interpret them. Existing analysis methods are not sufficiently advanced to allow a physically robust analysis of black hole powered sources, like quasars, even for nearby objects. Our team has the unique expertise to rectify this.


We will develop new modeling software to compute physical models of the line-emitting gas near supermassive black holes constrained by observations. Our team has the unique expertise required to combine the modeling of the velocity field and distribution of the gas with the physics involved when light interacts with it. We will analyze JWST data to weigh and better understand the first black holes

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