Our cosmic home is the main focus of the scientific research performed in the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS): the solar system with its planets and moons, its comets and asteroids, and of course with the Sun.
The researchers develop and build scientific instruments for investigating these bodies in cooperation with engineers who are highly qualified and experienced specialists. The instruments are mainly used in outer space, which is made possible through the institute’s collaboration in numerous missions of international space agencies such as ESA and NASA. The data analysis and interpretation is complemented by theoretical models and simulations.
The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research succeeded the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy in 2004 by a simple name change. The institute was founded in 1957 in Katlenburg-Lindau. Recently, the institute's location was moved to Göttingen. The institute's new home can be found close to the Northern Campus of the University of Göttingen.
The institute is organized in three scientific departments.
This department investigates the deep interior, the surfaces, atmospheres, ionospheres, and magnetospheres of planets and their moons, as well as comets and asteroids. The department contributes to important space missions such as the ESA mission Rosetta, which investigates the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko; the NASA mission Dawn, which investigates the dwarf planet Ceres; and the NASA mission InSight, which is planned to investigate the deep interior of Mars.
The focus of this department is the solar interior, the solar atmosphere, the solar magnetic field, the heliosphere, and the interplanetary medium, as well as solar radiation and solar energetic particles. The balloon-mission Sunrise, a balloon-borne solar observatory, is managed by this department. The mission investigates our central star from a height of about 35 km above sea level. In addition to several other participations in space missions, the department significantly contributes to the ESA mission Solar Orbiter, which is scheduled for launch in 2017.
Methods of helioseismology are used in this department to explore the interior mechanisms of our star. The key to this are the turbulent convection flows in the solar interior, which cause the Sun to vibrate in millions of different ways. Similar methods are used for investigating the magnetic fields of solar-like stars. The department hosts the German Data Center for SDO, the only German data center of the NASA mission Solar Dynamics Observatory.
All activity phenomena in the Sun and other stars originate from their magnetic fields, which arise due to a hydromagnetic dynamo that converts kinetic energy into magnetic form. Even the solar dynamo remains enigmatic due to the extreme complexity of phenomena related to it. Observations of other stars provide important constraints on the stellar dynamo mechanism(s). The work of the group aims at combining these observations with theory and 3D numerical simulations to gain better understanding of the solar and stellar dynamos.
Radiation from the Sun makes Earth a habitable planet. Fluctuations in the solar radiative output are therefore likely to affect the climate on Earth, but establishing both how the output of the Sun varies and how such variations influence Earth's climate have proved tricky. Increased amounts of data from the Sun and about the climate on Earth over recent years means that rapid progress is being made. This work is aimed at understanding solar variability and the Sun's influence on the Earths' climate.
Age is a fundamental property of stars. It is an essential tool to understand phenomena such as the evolution of stars, planetary systems, and the Galaxy. However, age is the most poorly known property of a star. Asteroseismology, the study of the internal structure of stars through stellar oscillations, offers the opportunity to estimate the ages of stars with much higher accuracy than before. Combining space observations with ground-based spectroscopy, the group determines the ages of thousands of stars with unprecedented precision.