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.


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


Department Physics of the interior of the Sun and Sun-like stars


Department Planetary Science Department


Department Solar physics and heliosphere


ESA’s Solar Orbiter has observed an interesting phenomenon


The balloon-borne solar telescope has survived the termination of its flight well


Solar Orbiter captured unique data from a distance of only 48 million kilometers from our star


The ballon-borne observatory has reached an important milestone


Organic compounds on Ceres

February 22, 2022

Researchers also find salt deposits in an impact crater on the dwarf planet

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The bizarre landscape seen in the photo is literally not of this world. Rather, the image shows the central area of the Occator crater on Ceres – a dwarf planet with a diameter of around 950 kilometers.

Small bodies orbiting the Sun are either comets or asteroids – for many years, this was the official line in textbooks. At the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Goettingen, Jessica Agarwal is studying “active asteroids”, small solar system bodies that don’t quite fit into the traditional categories.

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.

Postdoctoral Scientist (m/f/d) Helioseismology

Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen September 23, 2022

Postdoctoral Position (m/f/d) | Planet Formation Theory

Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen September 12, 2022

Software Engineer (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen September 09, 2022

Postdoctoral Position (m/f/d) | Machine Learning for CFD

Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen September 07, 2022

PhD positions (m/f/d) | IMPRS Solar System Science

Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen August 11, 2022

Cassini sheds new light on the physics of planetary radiation belts

2021 Roussos, Elias; Krupp, Norbert; Christensen, Ulrich

Astronomy Astrophysics

Planetary radiation belts are those regions near a planet where the intrinsic magnetic field is strong enough to trap energetic charged particles like electrons and protons. In the past processes in the radiation belts of the Earth were thought to be the benchmark for all the other planetary radiation belts in the solar system. However, recently measurements onboard the Cassini spacecraft in the Kronian system have shown that Saturn’s belts are very different compared to Earth. A particle detector built at the MPI for Solar System research (MPS) even discovered a new, formerly unknown belt.


Brightness variability of solar-like stars

2020 Shapiro, Alexander; Reinhold, Timo; Witzke, Veronika

Astronomy Astrophysics

The brightness variability of the Sun and other cool stars is one of the most exciting manifestations of the interaction between the matter and the magnetic field in their atmospheres. The recently achieved unprecedented precision of stellar brightness measurements as well as the progress in simulations of stellar atmospheres allows coming closer to understanding the origin of stellar magnetic activity and resulting brightness variations. Furthermore, stellar data allows constraining solar magnetic activity in the past and future as well as the resulting solar-terrestrial connection.


Rossby waves in the Sun

2019 Gizon, Laurent; Proxauf, Bastian

Astronomy Astrophysics

Researchers from the Solar and Stellar Interiors Department at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research have discovered new giant vortex waves in the Sun. Because of their long periods of oscillation of several months, the detection of these waves required many years of observations from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a NASA spacecraft in operation since 2010. These waves are an important component of the solar convection zone dynamics at the largest spatial scales. They can potentially be used as new probes of the solar interior.


Exploration of dwarf planet Ceres 

2018 Nathues, Andreas; Christensen, Ulrich R.

Astronomy Astrophysics

The exploration of the conditions that have prevailed in the early Solar System was the goal of NASA’s Dawn mission [1] for which MPS provided two structurally identical cameras. Dawn initially explored the asteroid Vesta followed by Ceres. The mission phase at Ceres has led to remarkable discoveries. Water ice is present both on the surface and in the interior of Ceres and has modified their mineral composition. In addition, cryomagmatic activity was proven.


Solar variability and climate

2017 Krivova, Natalie; Yeo, Kok Leng; Solanki, Sami K.; Wu, Chi-Ju

Astronomy Astrophysics

The Sun supplies Earth with light and warmth. It is an unfailing but not fully constant energy source. About 40 years of space-based monitoring of solar irradiance revealed its variations on all time scales that have ever been observed (minutes to decades). The variability on time scales of about a day or longer is driven by the restless solar magnetic field. Knowing how the surface magnetic field changed in the past, it is possible to reconstruct variations in the solar brightness.

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