At any given time the MPA has about 40 scientists working on long-term positions at postdoctoral level and above, up to 20 foreign visitors brought in for periods of varying length under a vigorous visitor programme, and about 35 graduate students. Most students are also enrolled for degrees in one of the two large universities in Munich, the Technical University Munich (TUM) and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU). Institute directors and a number of the senior staff at MPA have teaching affiliations with one or other of these universities. The majority of overseas students are also enrolled in the International Max Planck research School on Astrophysics, a joint programme of the MPA, the MPE, ESO and the LMU observatory which is one of the largest centres for graduate research in astrophysics in the world, covering subjects from planets and stars through galaxies to cosmology. Access to the world's largest telescopes and a stimulating scientific environment provide our students with the ideal conditions for their PhD research.
Interaction with local institutions is enhanced by an Excellence Cluster funded by the German Research Foundation in the field of astroparticle physics. Other participants in this programme include the physics departments of the two universities, the observatory of the LMU, and the MPI für Physik.
The MPA building itself is a major asset for its research activities. It was specially designed by the same architect as ESO headquarters, and the two buildings are generally considered as important and highly original examples of the architecture of their period. Although the unconventional geometry of the MPA can easily confuse first-time visitors, its open and centrally focussed plan is very effective at encouraging interaction between scientists and makes for a pleasant and stimulating research environment.
The MPA and the MPE share a large and fully stocked astronomical library, which is housed in the MPA building. All major astronomical books and periodicals are available. The library staff can also provide access to a variety of on-line archives and are currently extending this capability. Further library material is available at ESO, which in addition maintains a complete collection of optical sky maps and photographic sky surveys.
Other large data analysis facilities are available at the MPE, which has led the design and construction of the ROSAT and XMM satellites, which have surveyed the sky at X-ray wavelengths, as well as the ISO and Herschel satellites, which have provided imaging and spectroscopic data at infrared wavelengths.
The MPA has always placed considerable emphasis on computational astrophysics and has therefore ensured access to forefront computing facilities. The current in-house system is based on a large number of central LINUX-based compute-, file-, and network-servers. It is operated by MPA's own IT-group. Users have free access to all workstations and are connected via Linux desktop-PCs. Data are kept on central fileservers with a capacity of several hundred Terabyte, and distributed with the advanced filesystem AFS. All non-redundant data are backed-up daily. For larger computing tasks MPA scientists use the facilities of the central computing centre of the Max-Planck Society (known as MPCDF), which is located a few hundred metres from the MPA. Facilities at the MPCDF include massive parallel IBM supercomputers, a large number of mid-range computers, of which several are owned and exclusively used by MPA, and a mass storage system with a capacity in the Petabyte range. MPA scientists have free access to the MPCDF and are among the top users of the facilities there. The AFS file system ensures that the transfer of data not only between the MPA machines, but also from MPA to the MPCDF is transparent. MPA and MPCDF are connected via high-speed ethernet and protected by a powerful firewall. The connection to the outside world is via the fast DFN backbone.