©MPA/H.-A. Arnolds

The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics

The Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, usually called the MPA for short, is one of about 80 autonomous research institutes within the Max-Planck Society. These institutes are primarily devoted to fundamental research. Most of them carry out work in several distinct areas, each led by a senior scientist who is a "Scientific Member" of the Max-Planck Society.

The MPA was founded in 1958 under the direction of Ludwig Biermann. It was an offshoot of the MPI für Physik which at that time had just moved from Göttingen to Munich. In 1979 the headquarters of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) came to Munich from Geneva, and as part of the resulting reorganisation the MPA (then under its second director, Rudolf Kippenhahn) moved to a new site in Garching, just north of the Munich city limits.

The new building lies in a research park barely 50 metres from ESO headquarters and is physically connected to the buildings which house the MPI für Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE). This park also contains two other large research institutes, the MPI für Plasmaphysik (IPP) and the MPI für Quantenoptik (MPQ), as well as many of the scientific and engineering departments of the Technische Universität München (TUM). The MPA is currently led by a Board of four directors, Guinevere Kauffmann, Eiichiro Komatsu, Volker Springel, and Simon White.

MPA Research

Active areas of current research include the structure and evolution of stars, accretion phenomena, nuclear and particle astrophysics, supernova physics, astrophysical fluid dynamics, high-energy astrophysics, radiative processes, the structure, formation and evolution of galaxies, gravitational lensing, the large-scale structure of the Universe, and physical and early universe cosmology.

While most MPA research addresses theoretical issues, there is also considerable involvement in related interpretational and observational programmes, and the neighbouring institutes provide complementary expertise and there are many collaborative projects with them. Major research programmes at MPE are concerned with instrumental and observational aspects of infrared, X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, together with supporting theoretical work, while ESO carries out a broad range of instrumental and observational projects in optical, infrared and millimetre astronomy.

Further information may be found on our Science page.

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