The goal of this project is to use the technique of integral field spectroscopy to conduct a systematic study of the circum-nuclear gas in a large sample of active galaxies spanning a wide range in nuclear activity, to identify the mechanism for mass inflow into the central black hole. Specifically, the research will (1) determine the incidence of gas streaming motions associated with spiral dust features and quantify the mass inflow rates; (2) map outflows in high excitation gas on similar scales, to investigate the relationship between inflows, black hole power and outflows. The work will test theoretical predictions that spiral instabilities on sub-kiloparsec scales generate gas inflows compatible with the accretion rates inferred for local active galaxies, providing new insights into nuclear triggering and fuelling mechanisms and constraining supermassive black hole growth rates in the local Universe.
Broader impacts of the work include training of undergraduate and graduate students in spectroscopic research techniques. Involved undergraduate and high school students will participate in the RIT Insight Lab's "Research Incubator," which offers many opportunities to promote their development.