Yearbook 2011

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More than 90 percent of the human body is made of bacterial cells. Studying genetic variation in bacteria has provided confirmation of insights into human population history from studies of human genetic diversity, and novel insights that go beyond those studies. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have begun characterizing variation in the human saliva microbiome. They aim to understand the factors that influence an individual’s saliva microbiome and to identify particular bacterial species that might be informative for studies of human population history. more
Generally, so-called weak states are associated with weak national unity, especially in the postcolonial world. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology have shown that national identities are often much more developed in weak states than generally suggested. Moreover, these national identities can significantly contribute to conflict regulation and foster societal acceptance of processes of post-conflict reintegration and reconciliation. more

Public relations work and use of the Archives

Archive of the Max Planck Society Beck, Lorenz
The activities of the Archives were limited by measures taken to enlarge the building. The support of the pursuits of the Max Planck Society and other institutions during the jubilee year as well as during Berlin’s Science Year in 2010 and preparations for the Archives’ own jubilee publications required considerable expenditures. Yet, the use of the Archives’ reserves recovered compared to 2009, and the remaining tasks were accomplished almost as usual. The tasks include the completion of the Archives’ reserves and the registration of these accessions as well as measures to preserve inventory. more
The Archives will present the entire chronicle of the history of the Kaiser Wilhelm/Max Planck Society just in time for both research organizations’ 100th anniversary in 2011. The book complements, based on long-standing research, the annals hitherto publicized by the Archives as well as the other activities and periodicals in this jubilee year. Two more books will follow: „Documents on the History of the Kaiser Wilhelm/Max Planck Society 1911-2011“ and „Handbook on the History of the Institutes“. The books offer data, documents and courses of development as a source for further research. more

First direct image of a cool planet orbiting a sun-like star

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy Thalmann, Christian; Carson, Joseph; Janson, Markus; Goto, Miwa; Egner, Sebastian; Feldt, Markus; Henning, Thomas; Klahr, Hubert; Mordasini, Christoph
The very first observations with HiCIao, the world’s newest instrument in the search for extrasolar planets, have led to the discovery of G 758 B, the low-brightness companion of the star GJ 758. This is possibly the first direct observation of a cool extrasolar planet orbiting a Sun-like star. The mass of GJ 758 B is estimated to be between 10 and 40 Jupiter masses. The temperature of GJ 758 B – 600 Kelvin (330 degrees Celsius) – makes it the coldest companion of a Sun-like star ever to be imaged directly, and thus the companion most similar to the planets of the solar system. more

The significance of galactic collisions for star formation in the cosmos

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy Robaina, Aday R.; Bell, Erik; Skelton, Rosalind; Gallazzi, Anna; Jahnke, Knud; Meisenheimer, Klaus; Skibba, Ramin
When large galaxies come close to one another, the resulting tidal forces initiate intense star-forming activity. However, this process does not play a very important role in the formation of stars in general. In fact, an international study headed by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has shown that the formation of no more than ten percent of all new stars has been initiated directly by gravitational interaction in mass-rich galaxies during the last eight billion years (at redshifts z < 1). This finding is of great significance for the theory of galaxy evolution. more
New models developed at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) change our paradigms about the physics and evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy. Scientists at the MPA determine the parameters of about 16000 stars in the solar neighbourhood. The data confirms predictions of a model developed at the institute and provide insight into the physics of galactic discs, into the history of our Galaxy and the provenance of our Sun. more
The "Planck Surveyor" satellite mission to study the Big Bang, 14 billion years ago, via measuring the cosmic microwave background has produced impressive results during its first year of operation: a catalogue with 15,000 celestial objects, 25 scientific papers, as well as the most precise measurement of the far infrared background, revealing star formation in the early universe. The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics developed software components for Planck and is heavily involved in the scientific interpretation of the mission data. more