The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is an international collaboration a next generation extremely large optical and infrared telescope. TMT will observe objects as close as our own solar system all the way to the formation of the first stars in the universe. I am helping to build a data simulator for the first-light adaptive optics instrument InfraRed Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS). We are using this simulator to realistically model observations using IRIS and TMT to evaluate and enhance science cases for TMT.
The supermassive black hole at the Galactic center can be studied in multiple ways. Some of the methods I use are: (1) through its gravitational effect on stars orbiting it, and (2) through near-infrared light arising from gas falling onto the black hole. Using the IRIS simulator, we computed for the first time, realistic simulations of TMT's capabilities for measuring supermassive black hole masses in the universe. We find that there will be a revolutionary leap in our ability to detect black holes at every mass scale. This increase in the number of black holes accessible will help us answer long standing questions about black holes such as: how are supermassive black holes related to galaxy evolution? What are the origins of supermassive black holes and how do they grow over time?