Lesson Plan: Active Galactic Nuclei Physics

This lesson plan includes the objectives, prerequisites, and exclusions of the lesson teaching students how to describe and determine the properties of active galactic nuclei.


Students will be able to

  • understand that most galaxies are thought to have a supermassive black hole at their center,
  • understand, qualitatively, the accretion of matter onto a black hole and the production of astrophysical jets,
  • recall what is meant by the terms galactic nucleus, accretion disk, relativistic jet, active galactic nucleus, and quasar,
  • use the formula 𝑃𝑃=𝑑𝑑 to determine the luminosity of distant quasars, where the flux density of the quasar is the same as for a reference object,
  • recall that quasars are some of the brightest objects in the known universe.


Students should already be familiar with

  • what a black hole is.


Students will not cover

  • mathematical models of accretion, jet production, or shock waves,
  • general relativity,
  • special relativity,
  • models of gravity,
  • classifications of active galactic nuclei.

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