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Peter Kosec - Successful Slovak Astrophysicist

Updated: Apr 6

Peter Kosec is a scientist born in Slovakia in the city of Trenčín. From a young age, he was fascinated by nature. When he began attending the Grammar School of Ľudovít Štúr, his physics teacher introduced him to astronomy and international competitions.

His journey into the academic world began with Bachelor's and Master's studies at the University of Cambridge, where he also immersed himself in research in Astrophysics during his doctoral studies. It took him 3.5 years to obtain his PhD at this prestigious university.

During his undergraduate studies, he managed to get his first summer internship after attending one of his professor’s outreach lectures. During these 8 summer weeks, he conducted research from which he subsequently published an article.

After completing his doctoral studies, he went to the USA for postdoctoral positions, which opened up new horizons and challenges for him. He shaped his career at the Kavli Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his work became more independent but still filled with discoveries. He now works as a research fellow at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard.

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

He doesn't observe the Universe from a ground-based observatory but rather unravels the mysteries and secrets of data coming from satellites in Earth's orbit. He studies how matter and material fall onto black holes and neutron stars - how matter behaves near the heaviest and densest objects we know in the Universe. Because they are so dense and heavy, black holes exert gravitational forces on the nearby matter and attract it, causing it to heat up and emit radiation as it falls towards these exotic objects. Peter focuses on studying this radiation before the matter disappears inside, using X-ray telescopes. These instruments are placed on satellites in orbit because X-ray light does not reach the Earth’s surface.

When he wants to start working on a new project, he first thoroughly studies the cosmic object and what has been published about it before. He then submits a proposal stating that he wants to observe the particular object and receive data from the telescope. If the proposal is approved, he then analyses these data, writes an article, publishes it, and presents it at a conference. This may seem like a straightforward process, but it is not.

In his scientific work, technology and passion for knowledge intertwine. International conferences are an opportunity for him to present or discover new findings and ideas from worldwide-known researchers. One of his most recent trips was to Washington, where he was introduced to the new Resolve XRISM telescope launched in September 2023, which he is just beginning to use. In March, Peter also attended a meeting in Japan, where the first data from this telescope were presented.

Although academic journeys may be full of twists and turns, his determination and passion never waver, and he continues to see his future in this field.


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