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 for 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


Department Theory and complex plasmas


X-ray observatory XMM-Newton shows large scale plasma motion

Heavyweight in the heart of the Abell 85 central galaxy

Astronomers discover the most massive black hole in the nearby universe with 40 billion solar masses

X-ray scout sees first light

Observations with eRosita promise a breakthrough in our understanding of the energetic universe

Food for young twin stars

Food for young twin stars

October 03, 2019

Astronomers observe how two suns collect matter in a binary system

The entire sky in X-rays

The eRosita space telescope will be launched on 12 July in order to provide deep insights into space


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.

A pile of astronomy books and a telescope in his childhood bedroom. Space cast its spell on Sadegh Khochfar at an early age – and he is still captivated today. The 37-year-old now heads a Max Planck research group at the Garching-based Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, where he is at least as successful at piecing together the components of the universe as he was at mixing cocktails as a student.

Pattern recognition aids in analyzing structures in the universe, music, melanomas and brain waves.

PhD position (m/f/d) Astrophysical Interferometry

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching March 23, 2020

Postdoctoral position in adaptive optics / optical interferometry

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching March 17, 2020

Two Positions in High-Energy Astrophysics Instrumentation

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching March 05, 2020

Postdoctoral Position - diffuse X-ray emission

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching February 12, 2020

Instrumentation Postdoctoral Position

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching February 03, 2020

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.


Our Galaxy, the Milky Way

2015 Gerhard, Ortwin

Astronomy Astrophysics

The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy whose central part, the rotating bulge, must have mostly formed from the Galactic disk. With new infrared data the spatial structure of the Galactic bar and bulge could be determined for the first time. This makes it possible to predict the orbits of stars in the inner Galaxy and to link these with their chemical properties. With dynamical models we investigate the present-day structure and evolutionary history of our Galaxy.


Our Astrochemical Origins

2014 Caselli, Paola

Astronomy Astrophysics

The birth of a Solar-type star and its planetary system, starting from interstellar clouds in our Galaxy, can elucidate the formation of our own Solar System, including the production of complex organic molecules found in comets and meteorites. We are using dynamical models, astrochemical codes and powerful telescopes to study the physical and chemical structure of dense cloud cores, the future stellar cradles. Recently, we made predictions on the detection of glycine, the simplest amino acid, and we started to unveil the first steps toward the formation of protoplanetary disks.

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