Peter Boorman (@boorm) is a PhD student at the University of Southampton in the UK, where he currently studies hidden monster supermassive black holes actively growing at the centres of galaxies. These black holes grow by eating material surrounding them which can also act to conceal the active galactic nucleus (AGN) from our view. This is why Peter relies on high-energy X-ray vision (courtesy of X-ray telescopes in space such as @NASANuSTAR!) to be able to stare through the obscuring layers of gas concealing the AGN, and reveal the hungry black hole lurking beneath. However, much like Superman’s X-ray vision being blocked by lead, the densest and thickest layers of obscuring gas can even stop the highest energy X-rays from escaping some heavily obscured black holes.
Despite their apparent rarity, it is predicted that there are a very high number of these hiding supermassive black holes out there in the Universe that just haven’t been found yet. These AGN are essential for understanding the evolution of all supermassive black holes, and hence all galaxies hosting them since the dawn of the Universe over 13 billion years ago. With observations of galaxies in the local Universe, Peter will figure out how many obscured AGN there are on average, and how many have been missed in the past. When Peter isn’t spying on the most obscured black hole banquets in the Universe, he enjoys baking cakes and cooking lots of different recipes, as well as running long distances to burn it off!