Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics

The name suggests a very broad field: The Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. And indeed, the researchers in Garching do study all sorts of objects outside the Earth – but they do set priorities. They investigate our Milky Way, and discovered a few years ago that its centre harbours a gigantic black hole - for this discovery director Reinhard Genzel received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics. They investigate the physics and dynamics of the interstellar matter, the development of galaxies as well as the black holes at their centres, and they engage in "astrochemical studies". What’s special: the scientists use the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum, working both with telescopes for visible and infrared light and with satellites that observe the Universe in X-rays or gamma-rays. The Institute develops sophisticated instruments and cameras for these observatories to provide new insights into the “extraterrestrial world”.


85748 Garching
Phone: +49 89 30000-0
Fax: +49 89 30000-3569

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Astrophysics

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

Department Optical and interpretive astronomy


Department Center for Astrochemical Studies


Department Infrared and sub-millimetre astronomy


Department High-energy astrophysics

Section of a circle with a band of gray and white streaks at the equator and a multitude of red and blue circles above and below it

Results from the first X-ray sky survey resolve the previous inconsistency between competing measurements of the structure of the Universe

Two adjacent and slightly overlapping circles, left with diffuse orange-brownish structures, right with scattered white dots

First eROSITA sky-survey data release makes public the largest ever catalogue of high-energy cosmic sources

Reddish vortex seen from from the side above with a bright centre and a thin ray protruding vertically from the plane

Black hole at the centre of a galaxy in the early universe received less mass influx than expected

Illustration of the distribution of dust particles of different sizes (small to large from left to right)

Researchers measure the different sizes of interstellar dust grains and explain their growth


New space telescope sets out in search of extreme astrophysical X-ray sources

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Interstellar clouds of gas and dust – these are the birthplaces of stars and planets. To understand what exactly happens inside these clouds, a group led by Silvia Spezzano at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching near Munich is observing different molecules in the clouds and simulating the interstellar chemistry in a laboratory. Their work provides insights into how conditions conducive to the development of life arise within solar systems.

Sitting deep in the heart of the Milky Way, it is 27,000 light years from Earth and resembles a donut: this is how the black hole at the center of our galaxy looks in the image obtained by researchers using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).

Stars cluster in galaxies of dramatically different shapes and sizes: elliptical galaxies, spheroidal galaxies, lenticular galaxies, spiral galaxies, and occasionally even irregular galaxies. Nadine Neumayer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg and Ralf Bender at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching investigate the reasons for this diversity. They have already identified one crucial factor: dark matter.

Reinhard Genzel

MaxPlanckResearch 3/2020 Nobel Prize in Physics 2020

The Director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on black holes, in particular for the detection of the supermassive black hole that resides at the heart of our Milky Way. Reinhard Genzel shares the prize with Andrea Ghez and Roger Penrose.

As a young girl, she was a talented painter and had a keen interest in art. The course for her future seemed set. Then she happened upon a book − a book that transported her into the vastness of space and ultimately decided her career aspirations. Paola Caselli thus became, not an artist, but an astrochemist. As a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, she is still just as fascinated by cosmic clouds as she was when she was 12.

RF-Electronics Development Engineer (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching May 03, 2024

Nothing but a Black Hole

2022 Stefan Gillessen, Frank Eisenhauer, Reinhard Genzel

Astronomy Astrophysics

The discovery of the massive black hole in the center of the Milky Way was honored in 2020 with the Nobel prize. Yet, our research nowadays goes way beyond the discovery. We don’t ask anymore whether the black hole exists, rather we use it to conduct physics experiments in the sky. It is perfect laboratory, located at a mere 26.000 light years in our cosmic backyard. This allows for breath-taking precision measurements that not only test Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but that even reveal that beyond the black hole, not much more matter can hide in the Milky Way center.


A new way to feed baby stars

2021  Pineda, Jaime E.; Caselli, Paola

Astronomy Astrophysics Complex Systems

For the first time, we have observed a conveyor belt from the outskirts of a star-forming dense cloud directly depositing material near a pair of young forming stars. The gas motions in the conveyor belt, dubbed a 'streamer', mainly obey the gravitational pull from the innermost part of the core. The streamer delivers a large amount of gas with chemicals recently produced in the larger mother cloud directly to the young protostars. These results are striking evidence that the large-scale environment around forming stars has an important influence on small-scale disk formation and evolution.


Holm 15A and the most massive black hole in the local universe

2020 Kianusch Mehrgan, Jens Thomas

Astronomy Astrophysics

Which galaxies harbour the most massive black holes? Even though galaxies tend to get more luminous towards their centres, the most massive galaxies exhibit a deficit of stars in their centres. The giant galaxy Holm 15A exhibits a particularly large deficit, and in this galaxy, we found a 40-billion-solar-mass black hole – the most massive known today. The faint centres of giant galaxies thus are an important indicator for the mass of their black hole – potentially even at distances, where direct measurements are not possible today.


eROSITA and Dark Energy

2019 Predehl, Peter


Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG) is a bilateral space mission of Russia and Germany with the German contribution of the primary payload, the X-ray telescope eROSITA. eROSITA will systematically scan the entire sky for four years with unprecedented sensitivity. The primary science goal is the determination of the large scale structure of the universe and how these structures evolved over cosmic times. This could aid to unlock the secrets of the enigmatic Dark Energy which drives the universe apart. The first scientific results confirm our confidence to reach the mission goals.


Near the abyss

2018 Eisenhauer, Frank; Genzel, Reinhard

Astronomy Astrophysics Complex Systems

A century after the advent of the theory of general relativity by Albert Einstein, we are witnessing an outstanding year 2018 in black hole research. In three ground-breaking measurements with the MPE-led GRAVITY experiment, we could for the first time directly prove the gravitational redshift from a massive black hole, follow the orbital motion of accreting matter very close to the point of no return, and weigh the mass of black holes more than a billion light years away. With its unique image sharpness and sensitivity, GRAVITY is revolutionizing observational astronomy.

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