Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg


DFG SFB 881 "The Milky Way System"

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Eva Grebel (ZAH/ARI)

The origin of the Milky Way and fundamental issues connected with galaxy evolution are the focus of the Collaborative Research Center 881 "The Milky Way System" at Heidelberg University. The SFB 881 is supported by the German Research Foundation (first funding period: 2011 - 2014, second funding period: 2015 - 2018). Its research work revolves around our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Scientists involved in the SFB investigate the origins and evolution of the Milky Way and its surroundings in order to clarify fundamental principles of galaxy formation. Other goals of the research work done by SFB 881 include to test the predictions of cosmological models on galaxy formation, to explore the assembly history of our Milky Way, to constrain the role of accretion, to investigate the small-scale distribution of dark matter, to study modes of star formation in different Galactic components from molecular clouds to star clusters and field stars, and to trace our Galaxy's star formation history, chemical evolution, and dynamical history across cosmic time.

The Gaia satellite mission

Local contact: Dr. Michael Biermann (ZAH/ARI)

The ZAH is directly involved in in the Gaia satellite mission of the European Space Agency ESA. Launched on December 19, 2013, Gaia measures the positions, parallaxes, proper motions, luminosities and colours of more than 1 billion stars with unprecedented precision, complemented by radial velcities and spectra of 100 million stars. Main goal is to elucidate the structure, formation and evolution of the Milky Way. ARI is leading the Gaia Data Reduction and Analysis Consortium, DPAC. DPAC is the Gaia "Data Processing and Analysis Consortium", ESA's official science partner in the Gaia project. On September 14, 2016 the first Gaia catalogue was published i.a. with positions (α, δ) for all sources with acceptable formal standard errors on positions (in total 1,142,679,769 entries) and the five-parameter astrometric solution, i.e. positions, parallaxes, and proper motions for 2,057,050 stars in common between the former Tycho-2 Catalogue and Gaia.

European Research Council Advanced Grant Project "STARLIGHT"

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Ralf Klessen (ZAH/ITA)

The appearance of the first stars of the universe marked a primary transition in cosmic history. Their light ended the “dark ages”. They played a key role in the metal enrichment and the reionization of the Universe, thereby shaping the galaxies we see today.

Understanding high-redshift star formation is central to many areas of modern astrophysics. However, still little is known about the origin and observable characteristics of the first stellar populations. The Advanced Grant Research Project "Formation of the First Stars", funded by the European Research Council (ERC), intends to shed light on the physical processes that govern the formation of stars in the early Universe. The projects applies a concerted, multi-facetted approach that combines a range of complementary expertise and innovative techniques.


Local contact: Prof. Dr. Joachim Wambsganß (ZAH/ARI) 

Since 1995, the Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork (PLANET) is an international collaboration searching for extrasolar planets via microlensing effects. PLANET works closely with the OGLE, MOA, LCOGT and KMTNet teams forming in a global worldwide consortium, sharing resources, observations and models real time.

Disovery of first cool rocky/icy exoplanet by PLANET

The German Astrophysical Virtual Observatory (GAVO)

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Joachim Wambsganß (ZAH/ARI) 

The German Astrophysical Virtual Observatory (GAVO) is the German contribution to the IVOA (International Virtual Observatory Association), the international effort to create and expand the Virtual Observatory (VO). The VO is all about making data accessible to both scientists and the general public. Furthermore, it is also a highly complex network of computers distributed all over the planet.

Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)

Image of the Large Binocular Telescope

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Andreas Quirrenbach(ZAH/LSW)

The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) is among the world's most advanced optical telescopes for astronomy. It is located on Mount Graham (Arizona, United Stated) at an altitude of 3.300 m above sea-level and combines two 8.4m-wide mirrors on a single mount. The LBT is maintained by the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory (LBTO) which itself is funded and maintained by the LBT consortium (LBTC). The LBTC has five partners, one of which is the German "LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft" (LBTB). The LBTB holds 25% of the observing time and is composed of the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy, the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy, the Leibniz-Institute for Astrophysics and the Landessternwarte Heidelberg (LSW). The LSW has a share of the observing time of several nights per year.

LUCI cryogene spectrographs/cameras at the LBT

Local contact: Dr. Walter Seifert (ZAH/LSW)

LUCI I and II are cryogene spectrographs/cameras for both telescopes of the LBT and provide spectral information in the near infrared up to 2.5 micrometer wavelength. Together with the extremely high resolution of the LBT in its adaptive optics mode these instruments are perfectly suited for the investigation of star and planet formation as well as for detailed views on distant galaxies and quasars.

PRIMA (Phase-Referenced Imaging and Micro-arcsecond Astrometry)

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Andreas Quirrenbach

The Landessternware is a member of the PRIMA (Phase-Referenced Imaging and Micro-arcsecond Astrometry) Consortium, along with MPIA, Geneva Observatory, and ESO. This instrument is a VLTI backend. It measures the angular separation between a science star and a reference star. Changes in the angular separation, after calibration, indicate that the science star has a planetary system. PRIMA will be accurate to approximately 10 microarcseconds, sufficient for detecting Jupiter-sized planets. The Landessternwarte is responsible for the data-reduction software.

High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.)

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Stefan Wagner (ZAH/LSW)

The High Energy Stereoscopic System H.E.S.S. (High Energy Stereoscopic System) in Namibia is the most powerful ground based system of Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes for the investigation of cosmic gamma rays in the 100 GeV energy range. The H.E.S.S. project is run by a collaboration of European and African institutions. The Landessternwarte Heidelberg (LSW) is a member of this collaboration.


Local contact: Prof. Dr. Eva Grebel (ZAH/ARI)

The ARI participates in the Radial Velocity Experiment (RAVE), which obtained spectra of more than half a million stars in the Solar neighborhood using the 1.2-m UK Schmidt Telescope of the Australian Astronomical Observatory. RAVE measured radial velocities, stellar parameters, and elemental abundances for these stars, which tell us about the evolutionary history of the Milky Way.

ARI scientists also participate in the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS 1), which carried out a multi-color imaging survey with a 1.8-m telescope in Hawaii. Over a period of four years, three quarters of the entire sky were repeatedly imaged in five filters, providing a valuable data set for Galactic archeology and many other science applications.



Transregio 33 "The Dark Universe"

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Matthias Bartelmann (ZAH/ITA)

In the standard cosmological model, normal baryonic matter contributes only roughly 5% to the overall density of our universe, the rest being in the form of dark matter (27%) and dark energy (68%). The existence and dominance of dark energy was unexpected and raised fundamental questions such as the range of validity of Einstein's gravity, the role of extra dimensions, the existence of new forces, the nature of vacuum, the relation to the inflationary field and to the particle physics models.

The transregional research center 'The Dark Universe' (TRR33) investigates these topics by means of theoretical approaches, observations, and numerical simulations.

4-metre Multi-Object Spectroscopic Telescope (4MOST)

Local contact: Dr. Holger Mandel and Dr. Ingo Stilz (ZAH/LSW)

The 4MOST consortium has been selected by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to provide the ESO community with a fibre-fed spectroscopic survey facility on the VISTA telescope with a large enough field-of-view to survey a large frac­tion of the southern sky in a few years. The facility will be able to simultaneously obtain spectra of ~2400 objects distributed over an hexagonal field-of-view of 4 square degrees. This high multiplex of 4MOST, combined with its high spectral resolution, will enable detection of chemical and kinematic substructure in the stellar halo, bulge and thin and thick discs of the Milky Way, thus help unravel the origin of our home galaxy. The consortium consists of 15 members, some contributing to the hardware development, others to the software development, and almost all to the science case development (not detailed here). The 4MOST-team at the Landessternwarte is resposible for the development and assembly of the high resolution spectrograph.

The Gaia-ESO Survey (GES)

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Eva Grebel (ZAH/ARI)

ARI and LSW are partners in the Gaia-ESO Survey (GES), a public spectroscopic survey with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile. The GES targets more than 100,000 stars in the halo, bulge, thin and thick disk, and selected open clusters of the Milky Way and provides individual element abundances and precise radial velocities, complementing the astrometric data from Gaia.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Eva Grebel (ZAH/ARI)

The ARI participates in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which will obtain deep six-color imaging of 37 billion stars and galaxies using a dedicated telescope in Chile. LSST is a time-domain survey and will provide unparalleled information on variable and transient Galactic and extragalactic sources, addressing topics from cosmology to Solar system science.

DFG SPP 1992 "Exploring the Diversity of Extrasolar Planets"

This Priority Programme of the DFG, German Research Foundation (DFG) is going to run for six years. This SPP tries to answer the questions, what the diversity of exoplanets tells us about their formation processes and the evolution of planets and planetary systems, what we can learn about the astrophysical conditions necessary to harbour life and if these conditions are common in our Milky Way.ZAH participates sucessfully with five projects: Pebble accretion and the composition of exoplanets (C. Dullemond, ITA), Composition of planets with an N-body-Monte-Carlo approach (C. Dullemond, ITA), Characterizing and Understanding the Planet Population around Intermediate Mass Stars (S. Reffert, LSW), How planetary systems are shaped by their birthplace (R. Spurzem, ARI), Cool Earths: Discovering Exoplanets beyond the Snow-line with Gravitational Microlensing (J. Wambsganss, ARI)

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