Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research

Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research

The name itself actually precisely describes its field of research: the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. The scientists in Göttingen focus on Earth's cosmic neighbourhood – the Sun, the planets and their moons, as well as a variety of small bodies. They look into the heart of the star that keeps us alive, investigate its gaseous envelope, the solar magnetic field and the high-energy particles which our Sun ejects into space. The surfaces of the planets and their different “spheres” – atmospheres, ionospheres and magnetospheres – their rings and satellites, as well as comets and planetoids are further subjects for physical models and numerical simulations. And since the objects are not that far away, astronomically speaking, the Max Planck researchers love to take a look around for themselves – not in person, but by using international space probes and landers, for which they develop and build instruments and detectors.

Contact

Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3
37077 Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 384 979-0
Fax: +49 551 384 979-240

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
IMPRS for Solar System Science

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Physics of planets and comets more
Department Physics of the interior of the Sun and Sun-like stars more
Department Solar physics and heliosphere more
Five instruments from the Rosetta spacecraft recorded the eruption of jets of dust on 67P/Chruyumov-Gerasimenko more
The double asteroid
An object with the name 288P is the only known active asteroid comprising two components more
Unleashed magnetic power

Unleashed magnetic power

Forschungsmeldung August 22, 2017
The spots on the surface of our Sun bear witness to the activity in its interior more
Variable sunshine
Max Planck researchers explain why our Sun's brightness fluctuates more
Full braking at Alpha Centauri
Space travel visionaries solve the problem of interstellar slowdown at our stellar neighbour more
Ceres: Water ice in eternal polar night
The cameras of the Dawn space probe discover water ice in Ceres’ polar region. It can survive for aeons in the extreme cold traps, even though there is no atmosphere. more
A well-rounded star
Scientists measure the shape of Kepler 11145123 with unprecedented precision more
Eavesdropping on aliens

Eavesdropping on aliens

Forschungsmeldung March 01, 2016
A small band in the sky has been identified in which extraterrestrial astronomers have good chances of discovering Earth more
The habitability of other worlds

The habitability of other worlds

Forschungsmeldung January 14, 2016
New methods allow precise measurements of the gravity of stars and the size of exoplanets more
Water vapor on dwarf planet Ceres

Water vapor on dwarf planet Ceres

Forschungsmeldung December 09, 2015
The Occator crater on the surface is active - data from NASA’s Dawn mission indicate frozen water sublimating from its center more
<p>Dust particles from outer space</p>

Dust particles from outer space

Forschungsmeldung October 21, 2015
Researchers have analyzed the Ulysses interstellar dust measurements more
Ceres close up

Ceres close up

Forschungsmeldung August 27, 2015
Just arrived in a new orbit: from an altitude of only 1470 kilometres, the Dawn space probe is now gazing at the dwarf planet Ceres. more
Rosetta’s Comet: News from the surface

Rosetta’s Comet: News from the surface

Forschungsmeldung July 31, 2015
The measurements made by the Philae lander on Churyumov-Gerasimenko provide initial results more
Active pits on Rosetta’s comet

Active pits on Rosetta’s comet

Forschungsmeldung July 03, 2015
Some of the dust jets emitted from Rosetta’s comet can be traced back to active pits on its surface. They could be the remnants of collapsed cavities more
Rosetta and Philae at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Yearbook research report 2015 - Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research more
Hot lava flows on Venus

Hot lava flows on Venus

Forschungsmeldung June 19, 2015
Using a camera onboard of the space probe Venus Express,  scientists discover strong evidence for active volcanism more
Philae sends signs of life

Philae sends signs of life

Forschungsmeldung June 15, 2015
The lander of the Rosetta mission is awake and sending back data from the surface of the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko more
In the realm of eternal ice

In the realm of eternal ice

Forschungsmeldung April 22, 2015
In the realm of eternal ice Celestial bodies made up of frozen water orbit not only at the outer limits of our solar system but also further inside more
Pluto – a dwarf in the darkness

Pluto – a dwarf in the darkness

Forschungsmeldung April 22, 2015
The celestial body seems to be Ceres’ big brother and will soon receive a visit from a space probe more
Ceres – A world full of mysteries

Ceres – A world full of mysteries

Forschungsmeldung April 20, 2015
After an intermission of five weeks, the Dawn space probe is once again sending images of the dwarf planet back to Earth more
Vesta – Ceres’ little sister

Vesta – Ceres’ little sister

Forschungsmeldung April 20, 2015
The asteroid is rockier and mineralogically more varied than the current destination of the Dawn mission more
A new look at the Sun’s magnetic field

A new look at the Sun’s magnetic field

Forschungsmeldung March 26, 2015
Max Planck researchers discover how the strength of a forthcoming activity cycle can be predicted more
Partial solar eclipse over Germany

Partial solar eclipse over Germany

Forschungsmeldung March 20, 2015
In the morning of March 20th it was possible to view this impressive natural phenomenon using special eye protection more
When the dragon swallows the sun

When the dragon swallows the sun

Forschungsmeldung March 18, 2015
Eclipses have fascinated mankind throughout the ages – and even changed the way we view the world more
The sun – a mercurial star

The sun – a mercurial star

Forschungsmeldung March 17, 2015
The Sun is the Earth’s principal source of energy and climate driver. Yet sometimes it sends more light to the Earth than other times. Astronomers  at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research take these fluctuations in solar radiation into account in their models to find out whether they contribute to global warming or counteract it. more
Dawn reaches Ceres

Dawn reaches Ceres

Forschungsmeldung March 09, 2015
Dawn space probe captured by the dwarf planet’s gravitational field more
Mars – the blue and red planet

Mars – the blue and red planet

Forschungsmeldung March 09, 2015
At least 20 percent of Mars was once covered with water more
24/7 monitoring of Ceres kicks off

24/7 monitoring of Ceres kicks off

Forschungsmeldung March 04, 2015
On 6 March, NASA’s Dawn space probe will be captured by the gravitational field of the dwarf planet more
Rosetta’s profile of a comet

Rosetta’s profile of a comet

Forschungsmeldung January 28, 2015
Measurement results from ESA’s space probe provide a comprehensive picture of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko more
Kepler-444 has ancient planetary system

Kepler-444 has ancient planetary system

Forschungsmeldung January 27, 2015

Space telescope discovers five exoplanets orbiting a star in the constellation of Cygnus

more
Dawn has dwarf planet Ceres in its sight

Dawn has dwarf planet Ceres in its sight

Forschungsmeldung January 21, 2015

Images of the approach of NASA's spacecraft Dawn to the celestial body images suggest features such as large craters on the body's surface

more
First glance at a new world

First glance at a new world

Forschungsmeldung December 08, 2014
NASA's Dawn spacecraft sends image of dwarf planet Ceres, to Earth more
The dark fingers of the solar atmosphere

The dark fingers of the solar atmosphere

Forschungsmeldung December 05, 2014
Max Planck researchers explain structures in solar eruptions which have been a mystery until now more
Rosetta: The dark side of the comet

Rosetta: The dark side of the comet

Forschungsmeldung November 07, 2014
Light scattered from dust particles allows a first glance at the side of comet 67P that has been trapped in the darkness of polar night for the last months. more
A comet spews dust

A comet spews dust

Forschungsmeldung October 23, 2014
OSIRIS images of Rosetta’s comet show spectacular streams of dust emitted into space more
Hot explosions on the cool sun

Hot explosions on the cool sun

Forschungsmeldung October 17, 2014
Data from the space telescope IRIS show that the temperature distribution within the Sun’s outer layers can occasionally turns topsy turvy more
Rendezvous at the red planet

Rendezvous at the red planet

Forschungsmeldung October 08, 2014
The Mars space probes prepare for the fly-by of the Siding Spring comet more
Descent onto "head" of a comet

Descent onto "head" of a comet

Forschungsmeldung September 16, 2014
Philae, the lander of ESA’s Rosetta space probe, will descend onto landing site J on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko mid-November more
<p>A map of Rosetta's comet</p>

A map of Rosetta's comet

Forschungsmeldung September 10, 2014

The surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko can be divided into several morphologically different regions

more
Looking for a landing site

Looking for a landing site

Forschungsmeldung August 25, 2014
Researchers select five areas on the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet where Philae could touch down. more
Two dynamos drive Jupiter’s magnetic field

Two dynamos drive Jupiter’s magnetic field

Forschungsmeldung August 20, 2014
Max Planck researchers use computer simulations to penetrate deep into the interior of the giant planet more
67P shows signs of activity

67P shows signs of activity

Forschungsmeldung August 01, 2014
A distinct coma surrounds comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen from Rosetta. more
Comet with a collar

Comet with a collar

Forschungsmeldung July 24, 2014
OSIRIS images of Rosetta’s comet resolve structures at 100 metres pixel scale more
The twofold comet

The twofold comet

Forschungsmeldung July 17, 2014
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, destination of ESA’s Rosetta mission, seems to consist of two parts more
Last hours of a comet

Last hours of a comet

Forschungsmeldung July 16, 2014
Before comet ISON raced past the Sun, it stopped producing dust and gas, as data from the SUMER spectrograph on SOHO show more
Vesta’s rocky history

Vesta’s rocky history

Forschungsmeldung July 04, 2014
The dark material found on the protoplanet Vesta contains the mineral serpentine − and must therefore be of exogenic origin. more
Rosetta's target comet is becoming active

Rosetta's target comet is becoming active

Forschungsmeldung May 15, 2014
The scientific imaging system OSIRIS on board ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft witnesses the awakening of the mission’s target comet more
Osiris has its target in sight

Osiris has its target in sight

Forschungsmeldung April 01, 2014
The scientific imaging system on board ESA’s spacecraft Rosetta gets its first glimpse of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko more
The ringed asteroid

The ringed asteroid

Forschungsmeldung March 27, 2014
Two thin rings made of ice surround the asteroid Chariklo more
The dusty heart of an active galaxy

The dusty heart of an active galaxy

Forschungsmeldung March 13, 2014
Astronomers observe a dense disk and a bright funnel at the centre of the Circinus galaxy more
The glory of Venus

The glory of Venus

Forschungsmeldung March 11, 2014
A rainbow-like light phenomenon observed on Venus cloud tops helps to identify the components of the planet’s acidic cloud cover more
Asteroid with two faces

Asteroid with two faces

Forschungsmeldung February 06, 2014
Astronomers discover that the small planet Itokawa experienced an earlier collision more
Comet under attack

Comet under attack

Forschungsmeldung January 28, 2014
Space probes have studied the nuclei of comets from up close, gathered material, and even fired a projectile more
Expedition to primeval matter

Expedition to primeval matter

Forschungsmeldung January 20, 2014
The researchers are hoping that the landing on the comet’s nucleus will provide them with unique insights into the early history of the planetary system more
Rosetta’s final sprint to the comet

Rosetta’s final sprint to the comet

Forschungsmeldung January 20, 2014
The space probe was woken punctually, a rendezvous with its target comet can now go ahead more
Hitchhiker's guide to Vesta's hidden attractions

Hitchhiker's guide to Vesta's hidden attractions

Forschungsmeldung December 18, 2013
Varied geological formations and a unique landscape: new evaluations show the beauty spots of protoplanet Vesta more
<p class="Default">The heat pump in Europa's ocean</p>

The heat pump in Europa's ocean

Forschungsmeldung December 10, 2013
Researchers model currents beneath the frozen surface of Jupiter’s moon more
ISON stops producing dust

ISON stops producing dust

Forschungsmeldung November 30, 2013
On current images, the comet is gradually getting dimmer more
Cosmic oddball

Cosmic oddball

Forschungsmeldung November 12, 2013
P/2013 P5 is an atypical asteroid which rotates so rapidly that it loses mass and thus forms several tails more
<p>Comet ISON at dawn</p>

Comet ISON at dawn

Forschungsmeldung November 11, 2013
If comet ISON survives its close shave with the Sun on 28 November, it should appear as a bright object in the morning sky more
Cultural history of comets

Cultural history of comets

Forschungsmeldung November 08, 2013
Comets play a role in the history of civilisation, but their true nature has been unravelled only at a very late stage more
Fossil from the depths of the solar system

Fossil from the depths of the solar system

Forschungsmeldung November 08, 2013
While amateur astronomers are waiting excitedly for the solar fly-by of comet ISON, researchers are already revealing the first properties of the stranger more
A unique view into the Sun’s atmosphere

A unique view into the Sun’s atmosphere

Forschungsmeldung September 24, 2013
Data of the Sunrise observatory provide first detailed images of the chromosphere in ultraviolet light more
Interior rotation of a distant star revealed

Interior rotation of a distant star revealed

Forschungsmeldung July 30, 2013
With the help of asteroseismic data obtained by the CoRoT space telescope, scientists were able to determine the interior rotation of a Sun-like star – and characterise an exoplanet more
A journey to the active Sun

A journey to the active Sun

Forschungsmeldung June 12, 2013
Four years after its first mission, the balloon-borne solar observatory Sunrise has begun its second flight more
…and now for the weather on Mars

…and now for the weather on Mars

Forschungsmeldung May 08, 2013
In the north of the red planet, snowfalls occur with great regularity and can be predicted quite accurately more
The tail of Venus

The tail of Venus

Forschungsmeldung January 29, 2013
When the solar wind nearly breaks off, our neighbour's ionosphere expands into space more
Carbon in Vesta's craters

Carbon in Vesta's craters

Forschungsmeldung January 03, 2013
Large impacts of asteroids may have transferred carbonaceous material to the protoplanet and inner solar system more
Shadows on the Martian sand

Shadows on the Martian sand

Forschungsmeldung August 08, 2012
Mars rover Curiosity beams back first snaps from Mars more
Curiosity gets to the bottom of Mars

Curiosity gets to the bottom of Mars

Forschungsmeldung August 03, 2012
Max Planck researchers use the rolling laboratory to search for water and organic compounds more
Journey through hell to a geologist's paradise

Journey through hell to a geologist's paradise

Forschungsmeldung August 03, 2012
The Curiosity rover will revolutionise our view of Mars more
Unexpectedly slow motions below the Sun’s surface

Unexpectedly slow motions below the Sun’s surface

Forschungsmeldung July 19, 2012
New observations of seismic oscillations on the Sun’s surface from NASA’s SDO mission challenge our understanding of interior solar dynamics more
Vesta seen in colors

Vesta seen in colors

Forschungsmeldung May 10, 2012
New results prove that Dawn’s target asteroid is a relict from an early phase of planetary evolution more
The Sun’s crowning glory

The Sun’s crowning glory

Forschungsmeldung May 10, 2012
Max Planck scientists use sophisticated monitoring methods and computer simulations to examine the sun’s corona more
Zooming in on the sun

Zooming in on the sun

Forschungsmeldung May 09, 2012
The new, Tenerife-based GREGOR telescope is designed to observe the sun with an unprecedented precision more
Mercury’s magnetic field – nipped in the bud

Mercury’s magnetic field – nipped in the bud

Forschungsmeldung December 22, 2011
A new computer model takes account of the solar wind more
Primal rock in space

Primal rock in space

Forschungsmeldung October 27, 2011
The Lutetia asteroid could be a remnant from the early phase of the solar system more
Did comets bring water to Earth?

Did comets bring water to Earth?

Forschungsmeldung October 05, 2011
Observations of Hartley 2 have revealed the first comet with water similar to that on our home planet more
The observatory above the clouds

The observatory above the clouds

Forschungsmeldung September 19, 2011
Airborne observatory Sofia provides astronomers with a new window into space more
Eyes in the sky

Eyes in the sky

Forschungsmeldung August 01, 2011
For 25 years, space cameras developed and built by researchers and engineers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Katlenburg-Lindau/Lower Saxony have been providing scientists with a glimpse into the often alien worlds of the universe. more
Gentle nudges towards Vesta

Gentle nudges towards Vesta

Forschungsmeldung August 01, 2011
The Dawn space probe followed a winding path on its journey into the planetoid belt. more
Venture to the last protoplanet

Venture to the last protoplanet

Forschungsmeldung July 22, 2011
After travelling for almost four years, the Dawn space probe arrived at the Vesta planetoid last weekend. more
High Flying Astronomy with German Instrument

High Flying Astronomy with German Instrument

Forschungsmeldung April 14, 2011
Infrared Spectrometer on board the Sofia observatory successfully completes maiden flight more
A look into Vesta's interior

A look into Vesta's interior

Forschungsmeldung January 06, 2011
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research discover a cosmic chunk in space that originated from deep inside the third largest asteroid more
SUNRISE reveals sun's magnetic building blocks

SUNRISE reveals sun's magnetic building blocks

Forschungsmeldung November 11, 2010
The first results of the mission led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research have now been published more
Asteroid collision forensics

Asteroid collision forensics

Forschungsmeldung October 14, 2010
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research use the unique perspective from the Rosetta spacecraft to put a date on impact more
Cometary impact on Neptune

Cometary impact on Neptune

Forschungsmeldung July 16, 2010
Measurements performed by the space observatory Herschel point to a collision about two centuries ago more
Fascinating images from a new world

Fascinating images from a new world

Forschungsmeldung July 14, 2010
A camera from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research delivers close-ups of the asteroid Lutetia more
Where comets emit dust

Where comets emit dust

Forschungsmeldung April 26, 2010
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research identify the active regions on the surface of comets more
Are winters in Europe becoming colder?

Are winters in Europe becoming colder?

Forschungsmeldung April 20, 2010
The low solar activity could influence the regional climate in Great Britain and Central Europe more
Diamond in space

Diamond in space

Forschungsmeldung January 26, 2010
Researchers use the OSIRIS camera aboard the Rosetta space probe to reveal the shape of the Steins planetoid more
A bubbling ball of gas

A bubbling ball of gas

Forschungsmeldung November 11, 2009
SUNRISE telescope delivers spectacular pictures of the Sun's surface more
Taking a peek into the hidden universe

Taking a peek into the hidden universe

Forschungsmeldung May 08, 2009
Instruments developed at Max Planck Institutes at work on Herschel, the largest space telescope ever built more
Max Planck flies to the Moon

Max Planck flies to the Moon

Forschungsmeldung October 20, 2008
The Indian space probe Chandrayaan-1 carries an infrared-spectrometer from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research on board more
Light gives asteroids spin

Light gives asteroids spin

Forschungsmeldung March 09, 2007
Researcher detect the YORP Effect on the near-Earth asteroid 2000 PH5 more
A New Dimension in Solar Research

A New Dimension in Solar Research

Forschungsmeldung November 08, 2006
The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research is participating in experiments on the NASA space probe STEREO more
Peeking Behind Venus' Veil

Peeking Behind Venus' Veil

Forschungsmeldung May 02, 2006
Venus Monitoring Camera takes the first pictures of Venus' south pole more
A Little Moon of Saturn Makes its Presence Known

A Little Moon of Saturn Makes its Presence Known

Forschungsmeldung March 10, 2006
Max Planck researchers detect sub-surface material from the moon Enceladus in the magnetosphere around Saturn more
Electrons Flying &quot;Backwards&quot; in Saturn’s Sky

Electrons Flying "Backwards" in Saturn’s Sky

Forschungsmeldung March 06, 2006
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research discover unusual particle rays in Saturn’s polar region more
&quot;Huygens&quot; Finds a Hostile World on Titan

"Huygens" Finds a Hostile World on Titan

Forschungsmeldung December 08, 2005
International research team reports on the Earth-like surface of Saturn's moon Titan more
Organised Wind Chaos on Jupiter

Organised Wind Chaos on Jupiter

Forschungsmeldung November 09, 2005
An international team of researchers, using new computer simulations, explains the existence of banded wind structures on Jupiter more
Are comets more like "Icy Dust Balls" or"Dirty Snowballs"?
Max Planck Researchers from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany use OSIRIS cameras to look inside the comet Tempel 1 more
Solar Wind Originates in Coronal Funnels

Solar Wind Originates in Coronal Funnels

Forschungsmeldung April 22, 2005
The ESA/NASA SOHO spacecraft determines the origin of the fast solar wind in the magnetized atmosphere of the Sun more
The Sun is more active now than over the last 8000 years
An international team of scientists has reconstructed the Sun's activity over the last 11 millennia and forecasts decreased activity within a few decades more
How strongly does the Sun influence the global climate?
Studies at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research reveal: solar activity affects the climate but plays only a minor role in the current global warming more

A Dark World of Ice

2/2016 Physics & Astronomy

A space probe has journeyed to Ceres for the first time. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen are using its two onboard cameras to explore the dark surface of the dwarf planet. They have already discovered signs of frozen water – but is there also an ocean slumbering deep below the craters?

Snow formed from iron or metallic hydrogen – both of these phenomena can drive magnetic fields. Measuring them provides researchers with insights into the processes that change the internal mechanisms of the planets. Ulrich Christensen, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, investigates the broad diversity of these magnetic fields.
Although the comparison with the manned moon landing may appear somewhat exaggerated, Rosetta is undoubtedly one of space travel’s most daring enterprises: For the first time in history, a probe is accompanying a comet on its orbit around the Sun – and in mid-November, it set down the Philae lander on its surface. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen have front row seats for the evaluation of the images and data from the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The Sun – A Mercurial Star

4/2014 Environment & Climate
The Sun is the Earth’s principal source of energy and climate driver. Yet sometimes it sends more light to the Earth than other times. Astronomers working with Natalie Krivova at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen take these fluctuations in solar radiation into account in their models to find out whether they contribute to global warming or counteract it.
It was a historic event for researchers and a spectacle for the media: On the eve of March 14, 1986, the Giotto space probe hurtled past Halley’s Comet at a distance of 600 kilometers and sent back measurement data and close-ups of the nucleus. More than 220 European scientists were involved in the project, including 22 from Max Planck institutes.
Those who experience a total solar eclipse are overwhelmed as they look at the circle of light that surrounds our Sun. Laypeople may find it enchanting, but researchers have been racking their brains over it for decades. Why, they wonder, does this gaseous layer – the corona – have a temperature of several million degrees?
The Sunrise solar observatory successfully completed its first balloon flight.
Ulrich Christensen goes way below planetary surfaces. He simulates their interiors and investigates their makeup in the search to clarify how their magnetic fields come about.
Postdoctoral Position - Cometary Science
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen September 22, 2017

Sunrise for six days

2017 Riethmüller, Tino L.; Barthol, Peter; Solanki, Sami K.
Astronomy Astrophysics
Lifted by a huge helium-filled balloon, the solar observatory Sunrise has already carried out two sixday long flights along the Arctic Circle. While the first flight has provided new insights into the lower atmosphere of the Sun at low magnetic activity, some selected findings of the second flight, carried out at a significantly higher solar activity level, are presented here. more

Rotation and activity of Sun-like stars

2016 Nielsen, Martin B.; Gizon, Laurent
Astronomy Astrophysics

The origin of magnetic spots on stars like the Sun is not understood. Stellar rotation is a key ingredient in models of stellar magnetism. Five Sun-like stars observed by the Kepler space telescope are found for which both the internal rotation rate (using asteroseismology) and the surface rotation rate (using starspots) could be measured. Together these measurements show that the difference between surface and internal rotation in these stars is small, as in the Sun. The upcoming PLATO space mission will allow to apply this analysis to many thousands of sun-like stars.

more

Rosetta and Philae at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

2015 Boehnhardt, Hermann
Astronomy Astrophysics
Since summer 2014 Rosetta explores comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In November 2014 the Philae lander landed on the surface of the comet. The first measurements of the scientific instruments allow conclusions on the formation of small bodies in the early phase of solar system formation, on cometary activity and on the importance of comets for the existence of water on Earth. more

While the Sun appears relatively uniform in visible light, it presents its complex magnetic nature and esthetic beauty in X-rays. Of particular interest in terms of physics is the region governed by the intimate interaction between magnetic field and plasma. This magnetic transition, located a few 1000 km above the solar surface, is the prime topic of the space-based solar observatory IRIS (Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph). Here some results will be reported that present us with a new, more complex view of the atmosphere of the Sun and that pose a variety of new questions.

more

Exploration of the asteroid 4 Vesta

2014 Nathues, Andreas; Christensen, Ulrich R.
Astronomy Astrophysics

The exploration of the conditions that have prevailed in the early Solar System is the goal of NASA’s Dawn mission [1], for which MPS provided two cameras (“Framing Cameras“) [2]. The Dawn mission explored the asteroid 4 Vesta from different orbits for a period of one year, and is now approaching asteroid 1 Ceres. The Vesta mission phase led to a series of discoveries as, for example, the proof of an iron core, the widespread occurrence of dark material on the otherwise bright surface, as well as a variety of distinctive surface structures that point to a turbulent past of Vesta.

more

Braiding of magnetic fields on the Sun

2014 Peter, Hardi
Astronomy Astrophysics

The outer hot and dynamic atmosphere of the Sun, the corona, is dominated by the magnetic field. Convective motions near the surface are braiding the magnetic field lines that reach into the corona, and by this induce currents which are then dissipated and heat the plasma. Numerical experiments can capture the underlying processes well enough to reproduce the complex observations of the real Sun. The interplay of modern solar observations and numerical models on supercomputers provides the means to get closer to an understanding of the heating, structure, and dynamics of the solar corona.

more

Sources of water in the outer solar system

2013 Hartogh, Paul
Astronomy Astrophysics
Its unprecedented sensitivity enabled the Herschel Space Observatory to provide unique solar system observations. Herschel made the first measurement of the hydrogen isotopes D/H in a Jupiter family comet. Unexpectedly the determined value is consistent with the one in the Earth oceans. We conclude that comets are the possible suppliers of the terrestrial water. At the same time Herschel discovered a large water torus, centered on Saturn’s E-ring. It seems to be a medium transporting water originating from cryovolcanic activity of the moon Enceladus into Saturn’s and Titan’s atmospheres. more

Is convection in the solar interior slower than expected?

2013 Birch, Aaron; Gizon, Laurent; Hanasoge, Shravan; Langfellner, Jan
Astronomy Astrophysics

Convection is the main mechanism for transporting energy from the base of the solar convection zone to the surface and is thought to be responsible for maintaining the observed global-scale flows of the Sun. Helioseismology, the use of solar oscillations to study the Sun’s interior, has been applied to observations from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager on board the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory to obtain upper limits on the amplitudes of convective flows. These limits are in conflict with theoretical prediction and demand a rethinking of convection theory.

more

Asteroseismology of a Sun-like planet-hosting star

2012 Stahn, Thorsten; Gizon, Laurent
Astrophysics
The measurement of stellar oscillations allows us to infer the structure, evolution, and internal rotation of stars. The Sun-like planet-hosting star HD 52265 was observed with the CoRoT space telescope. The analysis of its oscillations allows to estimate the stellar properties mass, radius, and age with high precision. In addition it was possible to infer the stellar internal rotation from its oscillation frequencies. more

How does a sunspot work?

2012 Lagg, Andreas; Schüssler, Manfred; Solanki, Sami K.
Astrophysics
The dark sunspots are regions of strong magnetic field at the solar surface. The origin of their characteristic fine structure and the related gas flows remained an unsolved problem for a century. The interplay between observations with highest spatial resolution and realistic computer simulations now led to the resolution of the riddle. The interaction of the magnetic field with the convective motions, which transport energy from the solar interior to the surface, explains the structure and dynamics of sunspots. more

Exploration of the solar system with Herschel

2011 Hartogh, Paul
Astronomy Astrophysics
Herschel, the largest space telescope ever, was launched by an Ariane V rocket on May 14th, 2009 and observes the universe in the far infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum since. A key project of Herschel is dedicated to the role of water and related chemistry in the solar system. Different classes of comets will be characterized, the cycle of water and its vertical distribution on Mars will be analyzed and the sources of water in the stratospheres of the giant planets and of Saturn’s moon Titan will be explored. more

Sunrise – a solar observatory in the stratosphere

2010 Barthol, Peter; Gandorfer, Achim; Schüssler, Manfred; Solanki, Sami K.
Astronomy
The biggest telescope that ever left the surface of the Earth took off in June 2009 from the European space base ESRANGE near Kiruna (Northern Sweden). Lifted by a helium-filled balloon of 130 meter diameter, the 2.6 ton observatory drifted at a height of 37 km to northern Canada. During the nearly 6 day long flight in the stratosphere, the Sun was observed without interruption, tens of thousands highly resolved images in the ultraviolet light were taken, and the magnetic field at the solar surface was measured with unprecedented precision. more

Beyond the clouds: News from Venus

2009 Titov, Dimitri; Markiewicz, Wojciech; Fränz, Markus
Astronomy
After many years of exploration of planet Venus by sovjet and american spacecraft a large number of questions about history and structure of the planet and its atmosphere remained open. In 2005 the first European mission to planet Venus was launched: Venus Express – with a strong contribution by the MPI for Solar System Research. First analyses of the data received since 2006 show a previously unimagined structuring and dynamics of the cloud layers and allow new conclusions about the evolution of the atmosphere of Venus. more

Physics of Solar Eruptions

2008 Inhester, Bernd; Wiegelmann, Thomas
Astronomy
Since January 2007 the two space craft of NASA's STEREO mission orbit the Sun and provide us for the first time with simultaneously observed images of the Sun from two different viewpoints. The scientists at the MPS have developed analysis tools to generate three-dimensional models of plasma structures in the solar corona and compare them with models of the coronal magnetic field. These investigations aim at a better understanding of energetic eruptions and mass ejections of the solar corona. more

Helioseismology

2007 Gizon, Laurent
Astronomy
Millions of modes of vibration, excited by turbulent convection, enable solar physicists to see inside the Sun. Three dimensional helioseismic techniques offer unique prospects for probing complex magnetohydrodynamical processes and uncovering the mechanism of the solar cycle, while the extension of seismic investigations to distant stars will open a new era of observational stellar research. more

Planetary Dynamos

2006 Christensen, Ulrich; Wicht, Johannes; Fränz, Markus
Astronomy
Nearly all the planets in our solar system possess a magnetic field or had one at some time in the past. The diversity of the planetary fields reflects interesting differences in interior dynamics. Their exploration by space missions or computer simulations is an important tool to provide insight into the otherwise shielded planetary interiors. This short introduction gives an overview of activities at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research concentrating mainly on computer models, where considerable progress was achieved during the past years. more

Measurement of coronal magnetic fields

2005 Curdt, Werner; Inhester, Bernd; Innes, Davina; Lagg, Andreas; Solanki, Sami K.; Wang, Tongjiang; Wiegelmann, Thomas; Woch, Joachim
Astronomy
The solar corona harbors gas at temperatures of more than a million degrees. This gas is predominantly trapped on arch-like structures formed by loops of magnetic field. The high temperature and the structure of the coronal gas are attributed to the solar magnetic field. The high degree of order in the corona traces back to the fact that hot gas must follow magnetic field lines. Also magnetic current sheets (“jumps” in the magnetic field) are able to release thermal energy and thus heat the gas. The measurement of coronal magnetic fields is, however, not trivial: the low gas density leads to a weak signature in the spectral lines, i.e. the splitting and polarization caused by the Zeeman-effect. Also, with increasing distance from the solar surface, an effect starts to operate which influences the polarization of the absorbed light. The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau (MPS) successfully contributed to the solution of this difficult problem of measuring the coronal magnetic field. Two different methods of direct measurement of the magnetic field have been applied: coronal seismology and infrared polarimetry. In addition, based on mathematical models it is possible to infer the coronal magnetic field structure from extrapolations of the reliably determined photospheric magnetic field. more

SMART-1 - Europe’s Mission to the Moon

2004 Mall, Urs
Astronomy
After a limited view of the lunar surface during the years of the Apollo program, remote sensing missions flown during the last ten years have allowed, for the first time, a global overview of the composition of the lunar surface. Lunar science can bring insight into the general understanding of planetary formation theories. After 30 years a new initiative is on the way to resolve the remaining questions in lunar science. Among the currently planned missions, the European SMART-1 (Small Advanced Research Missions) mission will reach the Moon next. As part of the payload a near-infrared spectrometer, named SIR, developed at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Katlenburg-Lindau, will be used to investigate the far side of the Moon, undisturbed from the Earth’s atmosphere, and to participate in the search for water on the Moon. more