The department – The Planet and Star Formation (PSF) department of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy consists of approximately 80 scientists and is headed by Thomas Henning. The scientists of the PSF department study the complicated interplay of physical processes in the interstellar medium, finally leading to the birth of stars and entire planetary systems. They combine multi-wavelength observations from large ground-based telescopes and space-born infrared observatories with large-scale numerical simulations on supercomputers, theoretical models, and dedicated laboratory experiments.
Research – Star formation is a key process in the universe, shaping the structure of entire galaxies and driving their chemical evolution and, at the same, providing the conditions for the formation of planets. Our goal is to understand the different modes of star formation, from massive star clusters to more isolated groups of low-mass stars. We want to unravel the mysteries of planet formation which starts from tiny dust grains and ends with the formation of giant planets and their migration in gas disks. At the same time, we are developing new search strategies for brown dwarfs and exoplanets and begin to characterize their atmospheres.
Instrumentation – We employ a range of cutting-edge technologies in our research. Star and planet formation studies place serious demands on observa-tional techniques, pushing available angular resolution, dynamic range, and spectral resolving power to their limits. Adaptive optics and interferometry from the ground and sensitive space-based infrared instruments are in the focus of our instrumentation developments. To address the challenges in observational astronomy, the PSF department is involved in a number of international instrumentation projects that place our scientists at the forefront of planet and star formation worldwide.