PhD Research: The SXRB of the Milky Way

Using a unique data reduction process, I extracted the soft X-ray background (the SXRB) spectrum of the Milky Way from twenty XMM-Newton observations. I then fitted these with a series of plasma and absorption codes, allowing me to identify and analyse the various sources of the background signal: emissive structures in the interstellar medium, lying in both the Galactic Centre and Anti-centre directions.

I then split the flux of the fitted models to determine the contribution made by each structure to the observed O VII and O VIII emission lines, which are key indicators of plama temperature. Finally, I used my findings in conjuction with pre-existing radio and absorption surveys to construct a three dimensional model of the local interstellar medium.

Through this research, I discovered two new structures in the Galaxy: an enormous supershell surrounding the nearby supernova remnant, Loop 1, and the signal from a hot (0.3 keV) Galactic Halo. I have also inferred the presence of an interaction region between the supershell and the supernova remnant that surrounds the Solar System, the Local Hot Bubble.

I graduated in July 2011, and my thanks go to my supervisor Professor Derek Raine MBE (University of Leicester), and examiners Professor Mike Watson (University of Leicester) and Professor Diana Worrall (University of Bristol).

Want to know more? My PhD thesis is available here:
Investigating the Soft X-ray Background of the Milky Way.

Conferences Attended

Launch event for the World Year of Physics 2005 (UNESCO, Paris) : I represented the IoP and the UK in Paris at this incredible, mindblowing conference, and it the experiences I had there that inspired me work in outreach. I’ll never forget Sir Harry Kroto, a Nobel Prize winner and discoverer of the bucky-ball, explaining the whole of chemistry in five minutes flat; it was pure magic.

National Astronomy Meeting 2005 (Birmingham) : My first conference as a professional physicist. It was great to be back in my old department for a while! I attended dozens of lectures. and presented a poster on my PhD research.

National Astronomy Meeting 2006 (Leicester) : I presented a research poster, which was awarded 2nd Prize in the Poster Competition out of 210 entries, and also delivered an oral presentation. Please note that both the poster and talk represent ‘work in progress’. The research developed significantly after this conference and so, for the final results, please refer to my completed thesis.


For one fabulous week in 2004, I was lucky enough to be a telescope operator at the Isaac Newton Telescope in La Palma, a small island near Tenerife. I was working on the XID programme with Dr. Jonathan Tedds, a fellow researcher from the University of Leicester.

Over-rides to hunt for NEOs
La Palma

Research Scholarships

  • 2001: Galaxy Morpology
  • 2002: Hydrodynamic Simulations with GADGET

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