Bradley M. Peterson

Professor Emeritus of Astronomy
University Distinguished Scholar
The Ohio State University

Effective 8 August 2016:
Distinguished Visiting Astronomer
Space Telescope Science Institute
Baltimore, Maryland

B.Physics, University of Minnesota, 1974
Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1978


I am the former Chair (2006-2015) of the Department of Astronomy at The Ohio State University. I retired from the faculty in 2015 June, but continue to be active in research and service. As of 2016 August, I am on appointment as a Distinguished Visiting Astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute. in Baltimore.


My research is directed towards determination of the physical nature of active galactic nuclei (AGNs). These are the most luminous discrete sources in the Universe, as bright as an entire giant galaxy of normal stars, but are nevertheless very compact, only about the size of the Solar System. The immediate goal of most of my recent research has been to probe the inner structure of AGNs on the smallest possible scales through studies of continuum and emission-line variability, a process known as "reverberation mapping." Reverberation mapping allows us to measure directly the masses of the black holes at the centers of active galactic nuclei.


I am a member of the NASA Advisory Council and chair of the Council's Science Committee. I am a Community Chair of the Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT) for the Large Ultraviolet Optical and Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR), a mission concept study that is being funded by the NASA Astrophysics Division.

I am a former member of the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee (JSTAC) at Space Telescope Science Institute.

Selected Publications

Peterson, B.M. 2013, "Measuring the Masses of Supermassive Black Holes". First draft of a review paper to appear in Space Science Reviews. PDF document.

Peterson, B.M. 2011, "Masses of Black Holes in Active Galactic Nuclei: Implications for Narrow-Line Seyfert 1 Galaxies", B.M. Peterson, in Proceedings of the Workshop on Narrow-Line Seyfert 1 Galaxies and Their Place in the Universe, Proceedings of Science, PoS(NLS1)032 (2011). An invited talk at the NLS1 workshop in Milan, Italy, in 2011 April.

Peterson, B.M. 2010, "Toward Precision Measurement of Central Black Hole Masses'', B.M. Peterson, in Co-Evolution of Central Black Holes and Galaxies, ed. B.M. Peterson, R.S. Somerville, and T. Storchi-Bergmann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 151-160 (2010). An invited talk presented at IAU Symposium 267 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2009 August.

Peterson, B.M. 2006, "The Broad-Line Region in Active Galactic Nuclei", in Physics of Active Galactic Nuclei at All Scales, Springer Lecture Notes in Physics Series, Vol. 693, ed. Danielle Alloin, Rachel Johnson, and Paulina Lira, p. 77. PDF document (1.6MB).
This is a summary of a lecture given at the ESO Summer School in Santiago, Chile, 2003 December.

Peterson, B.M., Ferrarese, L., Gilbert, K.M., Kaspi, S., Malkan, M.A. Maoz, D., Merritt, D., Netzer, H., Onken, C.A., Pogge, R.W., Vestergaard, M., and Wandel, A. 2004, "Central Masses and Broad-Line Regions Sizes of Active Galactic Nuclei. II. A Homogeneous Analysis of a Large Reverberation-Mapping Database", Astrophysical Journal, 613, 682 (astro-ph/0407299).
A complete reanalysis of most existing reverberation mapping data, yielding black hole masses for 35 AGNs.

Horne, K., Peterson, B.M., Collier, S.J., and Netzer, H. 2004. "Observational Requirements for High-Fidelity Reverberation Mapping," Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 116, 465.
Available as astro-ph/0201182, or in a more convenient form, here in either PDF format (4.8Mb) or PostScript format (8.5Mb). In this paper, we present a series of simulations to demonstrate that high-fidelity velocity-delay maps of the emission-line regions in active galactic nuclei can be obtained from time-resolved spectrophotometric data sets like those that will arise from the proposed Kronos satellite.

Peterson, B.M., et al. (41 authors). 2002. "Steps Toward Determination of the Size and Structure of the Broad-Line Region in Active Galactic Nuclei. XVI. A Thirteen-Year Study of Spectra Variability in NGC 5548", Astrophysical Journal, 581, 197. (astro-ph/0208064).
This is the sixteenth and final paper in the AGN Watch series.

Peterson, B.M. 2001. "Variability of Active Galactic Nuclei", B.M. Peterson, in Advanced Lectures on the Starburst-AGN Connection, eds. I. Aretxaga, D. Kunth, & R. Mújica, (Singapore: World Scientific), pp. 3-67.
This is also available as astro-ph/0109495, or here more conveniently in either tarred and gzipped PostScript format (3.1Mb) or as a PDF document (3.2Mb). This paper was prepared for an advanced summer school held in Tonantzintla, Mexico, in 2001 June. It is an introductory summary on AGN variability, including a detailed primer on reverberation mapping of AGNs.

Peterson, B.M. 1997. An Introduction to Active Galactic Nuclei. Cambridge University Press.
This is a graduate-level textbook. You can have a look at it at Level 5 on NED

Netzer, H, and Peterson, B.M. 1997. "Reverberation Mapping and the Physics of Active Galactic Nuclei," in Astronomical Time Series, ed. D. Maoz, A. Sternberg, and E.M. Liebowitz (Dordrecht: Kluwer), p. 85 (astro-ph/9706039).
This is an invited review presented at the Astronomical Time Series meeting at Tel-Aviv University in 1997 January.

Peterson, B.M. 1997, ``Emission Lines in Active Galaxies: Outlook for the Future'', in Emission Lines in Active Galaxies: New Methods and Techniques, ed. B.M. Peterson, F.-Z. Cheng, and A. Wilson, Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series, Vol. 113, p. 489.
This is a summary talk from IAU Colloquium 159, held in Shanghai, The People's Republic of China, in 1996 June.

Peterson, B.M. 1994. ``An Overview of Reverberation Mapping: Progress and Problems'', in Reverberation Mapping of the Broad-Line Region in Active Galactic Nuclei, eds. P.M. Gondhalekar, K. Horne, and B.M. Peterson, Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series, Vol. 69, p. 1.
This is an introductory review, presented at the RAL Conference on Reverberation Mapping, in Abingdon, England, 1994 June.

Peterson, B.M. 1993. ``Reverberation Mapping of Active Galactic Nuclei'', Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 105, 247.
This is an invited review paper that summarizes what was known about reverberation mapping following the first AGN Watch monitoring project on NGC 5548.

Additional Information

You can find out much more than you really need to know about me through my curriculum vitae and bibliography of my publications is also available.

Where in the world is Dr. Peterson? Click on Carmen for my travel schedule: carmen_sandiego

Go to: [Ohio State Astronomy Department Home Page]
Bradley M. Peterson (

Updated: June 2015/