Simon Vaughan

Reader in Observational Astronomy

Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester


My research uses observations of cosmic X-ray sources to study physics under extreme conditions, in particular, close to black holes. Material approaching a black hole can be subjected to forces and temperatures so extreme they cannot be reproduced in the laboratory. Such extremes provide one of the toughest tests for our understanding of the basic physics of gravity and radiation - in effect, using black holes as physics laboratories.

This work uses observations made with ESA's Cornerstone X-ray mission XMM-Newton, NASA's Great Observatory Chandra, NASA's RXTE and the joint US-UK-Italy mission Swift. I use the data from these missions to study the behaviour of active galactic nuclei (AGN; accreting supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies), gamma-ray bursts (GRBs; the brightest explosions in the known Universe) and black hole X-ray binaries in our Galaxy.

Click here for PhD opportunities working with me on observational studies of black holes

Teaching and administration (2015/16)

I led two courses and was a member of the teaching teams for others including the first year maths (PA1710, PA1720). I developed modules for second and fourth year students based on my book Scientific Inference which cover basic topics in probability, statistics and data handling that are useful in physics research and beyond.

I am also the senior undergraduate admissions tutor for the Physics and Astronomy department. See our admissions page for more information about applying to study Physics at Leicester.

Professional affiliations

My (official) University web page

"A method is more important than a discovery, since the right method will lead to new and even more important discoveries." Lev. Landau