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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name



Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Ed Cackett


Accretion disk reverberation mapping is one of the leading techniques used to study the environs around supermassive black holes in Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs). Wayne State University’s new robotic Zowada Observatory in Rodeo, New Mexico allows this process to

be performed successfully, through daily photometric monitoring of AGNs. The aim of this thesis is to test the capabilities of this telescope and to explore the observational requirements for future high fidelity reverberation mapping. Data from the very first Zowada Observatory observing season are used for this purpose. From August 2017 to March 2018 monitoring of 18 AGNs was performed to track flux variability in different filters (‘light curves’). Accretion disk reverberation mapping measures time lags between the light curves at different wave- lengths, with the lags due to different light travel time to different temperature regions in the accretion disk. Light curves in each filter were created from the raw data, and time lags analysis performed. It was found that an average cadence of one observation every two days or better is required to achieve meaningful time lags results. Significant time lags between the B and R filters were calculated for 4 objects. Those objects that failed either had too few observations, or too low a variability amplitude. A number of AGNs were found that should be considered good candidates for future observation seasons.

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