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Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik

The Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, usually called the MPA for short, is one of more than 70 autonomous research institutes within the Max-Planck Society. These institutes are primarily devoted to fundamental research. Most of them carry out work in several distinct areas, each led by a senior scientist who is a "Scientific Member" of the Max-Planck Society. The MPA was founded in 1958 under the direction of Ludwig Biermann. It was an offshoot of the MPI für Physik which at that time had just moved from Göttingen to Munich. In 1979 the headquarters of the European Southern Observatory ESO came to Munich from Geneva, and as part of the resulting reorganisation the MPA (then under its second director, Rudolf Kippenhahn) moved to a new site in Garching, just north of the Munich city limits. The new building lies in a research park barely 50 metres from ESO headquarters and is physically connected to the buildings which house the MPI für Extraterrestrische Physik MPE. This park also contains two other large research institutes, the MPI für Plasmaphysik IPP and the MPI für Quantenoptik MPQ, as well as many of the scientific and engineering departments of the Technische Universität München TUM. The MPA is currently led by a Board of three directors, Wolfgang Hillebrandt, Rashid Sunyaev and Simon White.

Areas of Research

Research at MPA is devoted to a broad range of topics in theoretical astrophysics. Major concentrations of interest lie in the areas of stellar evolution, stellar atmospheres, supernova physics, astrophysical fluid dynamics, high energy astrophysics, galaxy structure and evolution, the large-scale structure of the Universe, and cosmology. The MPA has traditionally been strong in studies of General Relativity, but in mid-1995 most of our relativity group moved to the newly founded MPI für Gravitationsphysik in Potsdam near Berlin. Their departure has allowed a consolidation of MPA activities in extragalactic astrophysics, as well as an expansion in a new area, high energy astrophysics. While most MPA research addresses theoretical issues, the neighbouring institutes provide complementary expertise and there are many collaborative projects with them. Major research programmes at MPE are concerned with instrumental and observational aspects of infrared, X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, together with supporting theoretical work, while ESO carries out a broad range of instrumental and observational projects in the optical and infrared.

At any given time the MPA has about 30 scientists working on long-term positions at postdoctoral level and above, up to 10 foreign visitors brought in for periods of varying length under a vigorous visitor programme, and about 20 graduate students. The students are almost all enrolled for degrees in one of the two large universities in Munich, the TUM and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität LMU. A number of the senior staff at MPA have teaching affiliations with one or other of these universities. Ties with the Institute of Astronomy and the Observatory of the LMU are particularly close because the observatory director (Rolf-Peter Kudritzki) is also a Scientific Member of the MPA.

Since 1996 the MPA is part of EARA, a European Association for Research in Astronomy which links it to the Institut d´Astrophysique de Paris, the Leiden Observatory and the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, in a programme dedicated to fostering inter-European research collaborations. Interaction with local institutions is enhanced by a Special Research Area funded by the German Research Foundation in the field of astroparticle physics. Other participants in this programme include the physics departments of the two universities, the observatory of the LMU, and the MPI für Physik.


Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik

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