My name is Peter Boorman, a postdoctoral researcher at the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, Czechia.
I have a broad range of research interests that mainly revolve around the process of accretion onto compact objects. I dedicate a lot of my time to the growth of supermassive black holes billions of times more massive than our Sun. These black holes reside at the centres of every large galaxy, and I want to know how they grew to the extreme masses we see today.
Key Science Questions
See the projects below for more information about how we are trying to solve these questions.
- How many supermassive black holes are eating material in our cosmic backyard?
See my map of our cosmic backyard here.
- Are supermassive black holes scaled-up versions of smaller black holes?
- Do supermassive black holes grow by eating material from other galaxies, or themselves?
- How similar is the circumnuclear environment of accreting supermassive black holes?
See my accreting supermassive black hole schematic here for a definition of circumnuclear.
The NuSTAR Local AGN N(H) Distribution Survey (NuLANDS) is dedicated to finding out how many galaxies in our local cosmic neighbourhood actually host actively accreting supermassive black holes. The webpage is coming soon.
Most accreting supermassive black holes hide in thick clouds of dust and gas, making it very hard to detect and study entire, "complete" populations. A large portion of my time is dedicated to understanding how different detection/selection methods effect our understanding of black hole growth & evolution. See a relevant talk I gave to the Black Hole Initiative here.
Black holes can be described intrinsically by two parameters; mass and spin. Though multiple techniques have been identified for measuring black hole mass, only a few are currently used to infer spin. More information is coming soon about our new technique for inferring spin of accreting supermassive black holes.
Green Pea galaxies are compact starburst dwarf galaxies approximately 5 billion light years from us. They are far too small and distant to resolve with current instruments, but X-ray detectors have found some Green Peas are "over-luminous" in X-rays to what is expected from predictions. Stay tuned for more info!
Stellar mass accreting black holes are known to go through cyclic outbursts in terms of their accretion power and the fraction of that power emitted in high-energy X-rays. Could accreting supermassive black holes (~million times more massive) exhibit equivalent behaviour on much larger timescales?
Research Interests: Obscured accretion of supermassive black holes, Monte Carlo radiative transfer modelling, Big data analysis and machine learning methods
PhD in astrophysics
2015 - 2019
Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
The Obscured Accretion and Growth of Supermassive Black Holes; Awarded the Springer Thesis prize - link here.
Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
2019 - 2020
Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Praha, Czechia
Working on obscured AGN, AGN selection techniques & accretion states. Using X-ray spectroscopy, optical spectroscopy and multiwavelength photometry.
- Video interview: I was interviewed at the 69th Nobel Laureate Lindau meeting about my research - see the video here.
- Charity work: Led efforts for a charity DataDive hosted by DataKind UK at the University of Southampton. More info here.
- Nature Community writer: Wrote an article for the 6th birthday of the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope ARray (NuSTAR).
I am honoured that my PhD thesis entitled The Accretion and Obscured Growth of Supermassive Black Holes was awarded a Springer Thesis prize. See more info here.
I am proud to have contributed to the textbook; Tutorial Guide to X-ray and Gamma-ray Astronomy, which is now published and available from Springer at the link above.
In just 48 hours, our international team created a series of recommendations to nourish a mutually respectful publishing process with researchers in the Lindau Sciathon event. Read more about Group Boorman here.
In this paper, we identified a tentative anti-correlation between accretion power and iron fluorescence in a sample of Compton-thick AGN (Boorman et al., 2016; ApJ-833-245).
Here we used data from NASA's NuSTAR telescope to characterise a heavily obscured accreting supermassive black hole in our cosmic neighbourhood (Boorman et al., 2016; ApJ-833-245). Click here to read more on the story.
I was a member of the organising committee for XCalibur; an international meeting dedicated to next-generation high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy. Click the link to access the talks and find out more!
We were awarded money from the South-East Physics Network (SEPnet) to host our own conference in the United Kingdom; A Broadband Look at Astrophysical Processes. Click the link to see the contributed and review talks.
I was in the Local Organising Committee for the international TORUS 2015 workshop in Winchester, UK. Follow the link above to check out the contributed talks and posters.
Data Viz & Outreach
If any of these are useful for your work, or you have any requests for future plots, please get in touch!
I created this AGN schematic to show the physical emission regions compared to the equivalent Spectral Energy Distribution. Comments welcome!
I've been learning how to use Plotly; let me know what you think of these skymaps for different AGN samples.
Click here to see a map of our cosmic backyard, with every galaxy within approximately 15 million light years. Click any individual sources to find out more about them! Data from NED-D.
AGN are often classified according to properties in their optical spectra. Click here to see the diverse range of spectra seen for accreting supermassive black holes.
Every wondered what obscuration does to the observed X-ray spectrum of an accreting supermassive black hole? Click the link to find out with the borus02 uniform density torus model.
This page features a selection of astronomy-themed cakes I have made as outreach tools for my research. If you have any suggestions for future astronomy-themed baking, please let me know!