Professor Ken Pounds CBE FRS

Space Science, X-ray Astronomy, Black Holes, Science Funding, Human Spaceflight

Emeritus photoProfessor of Space Physics

BSc (Hons), PhD (UCL)

Tel: 0116 252 3509

Email: kap@le.ac.uk

Office: Room G24C, Physics and Astronomy

Biography

Ken Pounds is one of the pioneers of Space Science in the UK, playing a key role in establishing the international status of the Leicester X-ray Astronomy Group since 1960, serving as President of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1991-92 and as the first Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council in 1994-98. Since returning to the University he has resumed an active interest in the physics of Active Galaxies, playing a leading role over the past decade in establishing the existence of powerful ionised winds ejected from close to the nuclear super-massive black hole, with the potential to control the growth of the host galaxy. Professor Pounds' career in space science has been recognised by the RAS Gold Medal, the COSPAR Space Science award, and the Planetary Award of the Association of Space Explorers. He has also received honorary degrees from the universities of York, Loughborough, Sheffield-Hallam, Warwick and Leicester, and is an Honorary Fellow of UCL and Leicester.

Research

One of the most important new results emerging over the past decade from X-ray observations of AGN is the evidence for sub-relativistic outflows of highly-ionised gas, apparently carrying sufficient mechanical energy to disrupt star formation in the host galaxy. The prototype of these luminous AGN is the narrow line Seyfert galaxy PG1211+143, for which a short XMM-Newton observation in 2001 provided the first evidence for a highly- ionised outflow in a non-BAL AGN, with a velocity of ~0.09c (Pounds et al. 2003, MNRAS, 346, 1025).  Although a much lower velocity was claimed from a separate analysis, principally based on the relatively low signal-to-noise RGS data (Kaspi & Behar 2006, ApJ, 636, 674), the high velocity was supported - and refined to 0.14±0.01c - in a re-analysis of the 2001 data, making use of the higher energy resolution of the MOS cameras (Pounds & Page 2006, MNRAS, 372, 1275).

Further short observations with XMM-Newton (in 2004 and 2007), Chandra and Suzaku have shown the high velocity outflow to be persistent, but of variable strength (e.g. Reeves et al. 2008, MNRAS, 385, 108), while confirmation that the highly-ionised wind in PG 1211 + 143 is massive and energetic was obtained by interpretation of PCygni and other broad emission features from stacking of the 2001, 2004 and 2007 EPIC spectra (Pounds & Reeves 2007, MNRAS, 374, 823; Pounds & Reeves 2009,  MNRAS,397,249).                                                                 

More recently, the examination of archival data from XMM-Newton has shown similar ultra-fast highly-ionised outflows (now named UFOs) to be surprisingly common in nearby, bright type-1 AGN (Tombesi et al. 2010, A&A, 521, 57; Tombesi et al. 2011, ApJ, 742, 44; Tombesi et al. 2012, MNRAS, 422, 1), a finding supported by a similar analysis ofthe Suzaku archive (Gofford et al. 2013, MNRAS, 430,60).

The frequency of UFO detections confirms a typically large covering factor and hence significant mass and kinetic energy in such winds. Indeed, their mechanical energy may be an order of magnitude greater than required to disrupt
the bulge gas in the host galaxy, suggesting much of the flow energy is lost before reaching the star forming region in galaxies that are still growing. In that context, King (2010a, MNRAS, 402, 1516) has argued that the outflows in such galaxies, lying below M-sigma, must be momentum-driven, while the first evidence for a fast wind shocking with the ISM or slower moving ejecta, with much of the mechanical energy being lost, has recently been found in an extended XMM-Newton study of the narrow-line Seyfert 1 NGC4051 (Pounds & Vaughan 2011, MNRAS, 413, 1251; Pounds & King 2013, MNRAS, 433, 1369).

    SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

    2014

  • Pounds K. A., The soft X-ray spectrum of the luminous narrow line Seyfert galaxy PG 1211+143 - evidence for a second high-velocity outflow component Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2014) 437:3221-3227 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • King A. R., Pounds K. A., The end of the black hole dark ages and the origin of warm absorbers Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2014) 437:L81-L84 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • 2013

  • Pounds K., X-Ray Observations of Powerful AGN Outflows Space Science Reviews (2013) 82 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • Pounds K., Searching for Black Holes in Space Space Science Reviews (2013) 77 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • Pounds K. A., King A. R., The shocked outflow in NGC 4051 - momentum-driven feedback, ultrafast outflows and warm absorbers Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2013) 433:1369-1377 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • 2012

  • Pounds K. A., Vaughan S., An extended XMM-Newton observation of the Seyfert galaxy NGC 4051 - III. Fe K emission and absorption Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2012) 423:165-175 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • 2011

  • Pounds K. A., Vaughan S., An extended XMM-Newton observation of the Seyfert galaxy NGC 4051 - II. Soft X-ray emission from a limb-brightened shell of post-shock gas Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2011) 415:2379-2387 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • Vaughan S., Uttley P., Pounds K. A., Nandra K., Strohmayer T. E., The rapid X-ray variability of NGC 4051 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2011) 413:2489-2499 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • Pounds K. A., Vaughan S., An extended XMM-Newton observation of the Seyfert galaxy NGC 4051 - I. Evidence for a shocked outflow Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2011) 413:1251-1263 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • 2009

  • Pounds K. A., Reeves J. N., Quantifying the fast outflow in the luminous Seyfert galaxy PG1211+143 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2009) 397:249-257 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • Turner T. J., Miller L., Kraemer S. B., Reeves J. N., Pounds K. A., Suzaku Observation of a Hard Excess in 1H 0419 - 577: Detection of a Compton-Thick Partial-Covering Absorber The Astrophysical Journal (2009) 698:99-105 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • 2008

  • Wilkes B. J., Pounds K. A., Schmidt G. D., XMM-Newton Observations of the Red Type 1.8 Quasar 2M1049+5837: Reflection from Cold and Warm (Ionized) Matter The Astrophysical Journal (2008) 680:110-118 (Journal article) DOI for this publication
  • Reeves J., Done C., Pounds K., Terashima Y., Hayashida K., Anabuki N., Uchino M., Turner M., On why the iron K-shell absorption in AGN is not a signature of the local warm/hot intergalactic medium Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2008) 385:L108-L112 (Journal article) DOI for this publication 
  •  
  • Public Outreach

As CEO of PPARC I initiated a programme of Outreach, termed Public Understading of Science at the time, which was later taken up across the Research Coucils. On returning to Leicester in 1998 I joined the Steering Group to deliver the National Space Centre, which had recently been granted funding by the Millennium Commision. I remain a Trustee of the NSC which is now in its 12th year of operation, having welcomed over two million visitors in that time. In 2013 the number of schoolchildren visits, normally within a class group as part of a school-based project, reached a new high of over 70,000.

As Head of Physics and Astronomy in 1999 I agreed to take over hosting of Space School UK from Brunel, on the retirement of Heinz Wolf. Since that time the Department has run residential schools each summer, with separate week-long schools since 2006 for students in the age groups 13-15 and 16-18. Since 2002 I have acted as Director of Space School, though with most of the detailed organisation being carried out by Dr Tracey Dickens, the  Department's Outreach Officer. 

Professional Activities

Member of the Leverhulme Trust Advisory Panel

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