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. They study the physics and dynamics of the interstellar matter and the development of galaxies; they observe gamma bursts in the distant Universe and refine the theory of complex plasmas. 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


First eROSITA X-ray data release to the public


eRosita observes previously quiescent galaxies which suddenly switch on in X-rays


eROSITA space telescope finds largest supernova remnant ever discovered with X-rays


Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2020 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 13 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year


X-ray telescope eROSITA detects hot gas structures above and below the Galactic disc


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.

The universe resembles an unfathomably large honeycomb. Gigantic galaxy clusters occupythe nodes of the waxy walls surrounding the cells composed of empty space. Hans Böhringerat the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching studies theseconglomerations of galaxies, and in the process, encounters the invisible aspects of space.

In the early hours of October 23, 2011, ROSAT was engulfed in the waves of the Indian Ocean. This was the end of a success story that is unparalleled in German space exploration research. The satellite, developed and built by a team led by Joachim Trümper from the Garching based Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, not only found more than 150,000 new cosmic X-ray sources, it also revolutionized astronomy.

Postdoctoral Position | Observational Cosmology

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching November 08, 2021

Two Postdoctoral Positions | Infrared / Submillimeter Astrophysics

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching November 04, 2021

Postdoc Positions | High-Energy Astrophysics

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching October 12, 2021

Postdoctoral positions | Laboratory Astrochemistry and Observations of Star/Planet Forming Regions

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching October 01, 2021

Postdoctoral positions | Observational Cosmology in the ERC Funded Project “DarkQuest”

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching September 30, 2021

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.


Behind the scenes of protostellar disks: formation and fragmentation

2017 Bo, Zhao; Caselli, Paola

Astronomy Astrophysics

For a long time the formation of protostellar disks – a prerequisite to the formation of planetary system around stars – was considered to be difficult. The magnetic field threading the dense rotating molecular cloud is dragged to the center by the gravitational collapse, resulting in a braking effect that carries away angular momentum from the central region. Hardly any rotationally supported disk can form this way, unless the tiny grains are removed from the cloud and the separation between the magnetic field and the collapsing flow is enhanced.


Witnessing the birth of the most massive galaxies in the Universe

2016 Beifiori, Alessandra; Mendel, J. Trevor

Astronomy Astrophysics

The rich diversity of galaxy morphologies grows out of complex physical processes that govern the formation of new stars and the assembly of stellar mass over time. The advent of new near-infrared facilities allowed us to extensively study the distribution of stellar types and chemical properties of distant massive galaxies by measuring the absorption features in their spectra. This constrained their formation times and provided a more detailed picture of their stellar mass distribution, and their dynamical state at the time when the Universe was less than 4 billion years old.

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