Research areas

Potsdam is one of four major sites of astrophysical research in Germany. Here, three internationally leading non-university institutions conduct a wide range of astrophysical research. They are closely associated with the University of Potsdam and contribute to academic teaching through joint professorships, associate and honorary professorships and joint research groups. The Astrophysics research area at the University of Potsdam stands out due to being especially strongly networked with these non-university institutions.

The life cycle of stars, planets, gas and galaxies

Stellar Astrophysics at the University of Potsdam (UP) focuses on massive stars and their stellar winds. Observations of stellar spectra and their analysis are used to investigate stellar evolution until its final stages: white dwarfs, neutron stars or black holes. The properties of planetary and stellar discs of dust are explored in planetology.

Galactic and extragalactic astrophysics at UP investigates the diffuse gas component in the universe. The interstellar and intergalactic medium, i.e. the gas in between stars and galaxies, provides important information about the chemical evolution of galaxies from the early universe up to today. Research in astroparticle physics is dedicated to specific aspects of particle physics applied to cosmic objects.

UP research groups in astrophysics:

  • Stellar Astrophysics
  • Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium
  • Planetology
  • Experimental Astroparticle Physics (with DESY)
  • Theoretical Astroparticle Physics (with DESY)
  • Plasma Astrophysics (with DESY)

From the Sun to distant galaxies

Research at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) in the overarching areas of Cosmic Magnetic Fields and Extragalactic Astrophysics aims to decipher the structure, formation and evolution of cosmic objects - from the sun and individual stars, to our Milky Way and other galaxies. The overarching goal is to understand the physical processes involved on every scale: this includes, for example, magnetic dynamos, turbulence, and feedback from stars and from supermassive black holes, as well as the effects of dark matter and dark energy.

In addition, scientists and engineers in the area of research infrastructure/technology develop new instrumentation and software for major international astronomical projects on Earth and in space.

AIP Cosmic Magnetic Fields research area:

  • Magnetohydrodynamics and Turbulence
  • Physics of the Sun
  • Stellar Physics and Stellar Activity

AIP Extragalactic Astrophysics research area:

  • Milky Way and the Local Group
  • Galaxies and Quasars
  • Cosmology and Large-Scale Structure

AIP research and development area:

  • Telescope Control and Robotics
  • High-resolution Spectroscopy and Polarimetry
  • 3D and Multi-Object Spectroscopy
  • Supercomputing and E-Science
  • Fiber-optic Spectroscopy and Sensing (innoFSPEC)

High-energy radiation from Space

The research activities at the DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron) location Zeuthen focus on astroparticle physics with high-energy neutrinos and gamma rays from space. These messengers can provide insights on fascinating phenomena such as supernova remnants, black holes and active galaxies - cosmic particle accelerators that accelerate cores of atoms and electrons to tremendous energies.

Scientists and engineers at DESY make significant contributions to the construction and operation of large observatories and experiments of astroparticle physics.

DESY Astroparticle Physics research area:

  • Neutrino Astronomy
  • Gamma Astronomy
  • Astroparticle Physics Theory

Detecting gravitational waves

Research at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute / AEI) covers all aspects of gravitational physics. Five departments and several independent research groups address fundamental theoretical research topics regarding the Theory of General Relativity and Quantum Gravitation as well as both experimental and theoretical aspects of gravitational waves that were  predicted by Einstein in 1916 and that were directly measured for the first time in 2015.

The main goal of the research with astrophysical applications is the development of analytical and numerical models of gravitational wave sources to obtain unique astrophysical and cosmological information from the observed wave forms and to validate Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.

AEI departments and groups in Potsdam related to gravitational-wave physics and astrophysics:

  • Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity
  • Theoretical Cosmology (Max Planck research group)
  • Gravitation and Black Hole Theory (Minerva Research Group)

Research Infra­structure

Potsdam’s involvement in large observatories; technological and computing resources, campus, and services. >