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About the IMPRS

We are the joint International Max-Planck Research School (IMPRS) on Astrophysics of

  • the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE)
  • the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA)
  • the University Observatory Munich (USM)
  • the European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Together, we form one of the largest centers of astrophysical research in the world, covering every subject from planets, stars, and galaxies to cosmology. Access to the world's largest telescopes and a stimulating scientific environment provide our students with the ideal conditions for their PhD research.


Max-Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics (MPE)

MPE is a world leader in the fields of Active Galactic Nuclei, Black Holes and Galaxy Structure and Evolution. Scientists at MPE are leading or contributing to many of the most important satellite projects such as the X-ray observatories CHANDRA, XMM-NEWTON and eROSITA, the Gamma-ray missions INTEGRAL and FERMI as well as to the infrared satellite Herschel. MPE also makes major contributions to the satellite observatory EUCLID, which will allow exploring dark energy via the gravitational lensing effect and the large-scale distribution of galaxies.

Participation in the development of ground-based instrumentations includes hardware projects for, e.g., adaptive optics systems, interferometry and spectroscopy at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (e.g. PARSEC, NACO, SINFONI, GRAVITY) and the Large Binocular Telescope (ARGOS, LUCIFER). MPE maintains its own semiconductor lab, which is specialized and leading in the design and development of silicon detectors for particle physics and X-ray astronomy. Plasma crystal experiments developed at MPE were the first scientific experiments accomplished aboard the International Space Station.

Scientific research at MPE is organized in four departments: Optical and interpretative astronomy (Prof. Ralf Bender), infrared and sub-millimeter/millimeter astronomy (Prof. Reinhard Genzel), high-energy astrophysics (Prof. Kirpal Nandra), and theory/complex plasmas (Prof. Gregor Morfill), whereby the latter group will be replaced by a new hire in 2013. Within these areas scientists lead individual experiments and research projects, organized in about 30 project teams. The research topics cover cosmology, galaxy formation and evolution, galaxy clusters, Active Galactic Nuclei, black holes, stellar evolution, compact objects, relativity and the physics of cosmic plasmas.

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Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA)

The MPA is most renowned institutions for theoretical and computational astrophysics. The scientific activities are centered on the following topics: stellar structure and evolution, nuclear astrophysics, accretion processes, supernovae and gamma-ray bursts; astrophysical jets; high energy astrophysics; formation and evolution of galaxies; clusters of galaxies and intergalactic medium, the large-scale structure of the Universe; the microwave background radiation and physical cosmology.

The institute is a world leader in supercomputer simulation of astrophysical systems (supernovae, radio jets, merging or forming galaxies, large-scale structure). The MPA is involved in ESA's Planck mission, which maps the Cosmic Microwave Background with unprecedented accuracy and resolution. It is participating in the LOFAR project with its own LOFAR station north of Munich. It is a full partner in the current third phase of the US-led Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a PI institute into the international Virgo Super-computing Consortium, and through its connection with the Space Research Institute in Moscow it participates actively in the current INTEGRAL and future eROSITA missions.

Currently MPA’s research is organized into three departments, focusing on: high-energy astrophysics, cosmology and large-scale structure (Prof. Rashid Sunyaev, to be followed by Prof. Eiichiro Komatsu), galaxy formation and computational cosmology (Prof. Simon White), and stellar structure and evolution (Prof. Wolfgang Hillebrandt, for whom a successor is currently sought).

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University Observatory of the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (USM)

The University Observatory of the LMU excels in a broad range of research activities ranging from planets and stars to galaxies, large-scale structure and the dark components of the universe. It is a partner in the 11m Hobby-Eberly-Telescope (HET), it operates a 2.0m telescope at the Wendelstein Observatory in the Bavarian Alps and makes intensive use of ESO telescopes. The University Observatory participates in major instrumentation and software development projects for ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), ESO's future spectroscopic survey missions, the Hobby-Eberly-Telescope and the Wendelstein Observatory, for the Dark Energy Survey and ESA’s EUCLID mission.

The observatory has a long history of excellence in astronomical research and teaching, tracing back to Fraunhofer, von Seeliger and others. Currently there exist seven research groups in the following fields: Extragalactic Astronomy (Prof. Ralf Bender), Theoretical Cosmology (Prof. Jochen Weller), Computational Astrophysics (Prof. Andreas Burkert, Prof. Barbara Ercolano, Prof. Til Birnstiel), Structure Formation and Cosmology (Prof. Joseph Mohr), Young Stars and Star Formation (Prof. Thomas Preibisch), and Plasma-Astrophysics (Prof. Harald Lesch).

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European Southern Observatory (ESO)

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organization in Europe, and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. ESO operates one of the largest ground-based Observatories in the world. The Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory near Antofagasta (Chile) consists of four 8m telescopes and provides unique sensitivity, imaging and spectral capabilities to explore the universe at optical and infrared wavelengths. The four 8m telescopes are designed to operate in interferometric mode as well, offering the resolving power of a 200m telescope. Several optical/infrared telescopes with diameters up to 3.6m are operated at the La Silla Observatory at the southern edge of the Atacama desert. ESO is also operating the APEX telescope and presently building the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA), which will be the largest ground-based astronomy facility when completed. ESO is now planning the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) with the largest optical/near-infrared telescope ever built with its 40m class primary mirror.

ESO Headquarters in Garching include more than 115 staff astronomers, conducting front-line research in fields ranging from exoplanets to cosmology, and offering a vibrant and stimulating scientific environment. Research interests of ESO scientists range from the solar system to studies of the solar neighborhood (extra-solar planets, evolved stars, star formation), interstellar medium, galactic structure, local universe (Local Group and beyond) and cosmology (galaxy clusters, Gamma-ray bursts, dark matter, lensing). Cutting-edge research and development on instrumentation for large telescopes, optical and infrared detectors, data processing and analysis, and the handling of large (Terabyte) data sets as part of the Virtual Observatory is also taking place at ESO.

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Taken these four institutions together, there are less than a handful of places world-wide, which can compete in breadth and level of research with the Garching/Munich area.

Visitors from all over the world provide the local research community and students with unique insight in the latest scientific achievements and unparalleled possibilities for contacts to the leading scientists in astrophysics. Students participating in the IMPRS gain a truly international perspective on their field and feel that they are at the heart of European astronomy.