Peter Boorman

Astrophysicist

Observer

Data analyst

Science communicator

 

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.

Projects

NuLANDS

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. Click here to see a poster all about NuLANDS that I presented at the 2021 EAS meeting.

Black hole spins

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.

X-raying Green Peas

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 approximately five times "over-luminous" in X-rays to what is expected from predictions. What could be powering such extreme X-ray emission in these sources?

AGN accretion states

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?

Bayesian X-ray Analysis

Bayesian X-ray Analysis (BXA) is a package to robustly estimate parameter uncertainties, perform Bayesian model selection and so much more. Follow the link for a tutorial on how to use many different aspects of BXA, and click here for the accompanying video tutorial.

237

Citations (peer-reviewed)

24

Papers (peer-reviewed)

9

H-index

45

Talks (contributed & invited)

           

Summary

Peter Boorman

Research Interests: Obscured accretion of supermassive black holes, Monte Carlo radiative transfer modelling, Big data analysis and machine learning methods

Education

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.

Integrated Masters in Physics

2011 - 2015

Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Finished top of the year with first class honours - link here.

Professional Experience

JSPS fellow

Coming soon

Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

Postdoctoral researcher

2019 - present

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.

MoleGazer data analyst

2019

University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

    Funded from STFC Impact Acceleration Accounts to analyse the temporal evolution of naevi into melanoma in medical images using astronomical photometric techniques and machine learning algorithms. Click here to learn more.

Skills

Coding

Observing

  • X-ray: NuSTAR (300 ks) & XMM-Newton (400 ks)
  • Optical: > 7.5 hours accepted Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) time

Outreach

  • 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).

See my full CV here.

News

Springer Thesis award

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.

Introductory X-ray textbook published

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.

Publish & Flourish: Lindau Sciathon 2020 article submitted

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.

Iron K-alpha fluorescence in Compton-thick AGN

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).

A local hungry black hole

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.

High-Resolution X-ray Spectroscopy workshop 2019

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!

Broadband Look conference

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.

Data Viz & Outreach

If any of these are useful for your work, or you have any requests for future plots, please get in touch!

Large-scale AGN schematic

I produced this schematic in Python (matplotlib), based around the schematic shown in Ramos-Almeida & Ricci (2017; NatAs-1-679).

AGN schematic with SED

I created this AGN schematic to show the physical emission regions compared to the equivalent Spectral Energy Distribution. Comments welcome!

Interactive Skymaps

I've been learning how to use Plotly; let me know what you think of these skymaps for different AGN samples.

Our cosmic backyard

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 Unification

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.

Obscured AGN X-ray spectra

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.

Astronomy-themed baking

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!