The Australian National University
Super-massive black holes are a fundamental building block of galaxies like our own Milky Way. However, astronomers and physicists know little about how they form, grow to be a billion times the mass of our own Sun, and affect the formation of galaxies, stars, planets, and life. Dr Banfield’s research contributes to understanding the role of super-massive black holes in the life cycles of galaxies and stars by studying the outflows of electrons from their centre. Her recent study of super-massive black holes shows outflows directly interacting with the galactic gas cloud that will create stars. This study illustrates how super-massive black holes can create stars and not simply destroy them. It will lead to a more complete understanding of these galactic interactions and is likely to reveal the role and physical processes that super-massive black holes play in the creation and destruction of galaxies and stars.
She is a co-leader of Radio Galaxy Zoo, an international citizen science project to enlist the general public to identify the host galaxy of super-massive black holes. This project enables the general public to become involved in the scientific process. There are over 11,000 volunteers and over 1.8 million classifications. She has also been the Astronomer in Residence at the Ayers Rock Resort.