From Researching the Atmosphere to Outer Space
The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research has had an eventful history – with several moves, changes of name, and structural developments. The first prototype of the current institute was founded in 1934 in Mecklenburg; it moved to its present location in Katlenburg-Lindau in 1946. Not just the location of the buildings changed – the topic of research also moved, from Earth to outer space. In the first decades the focus of research was the stratosphere and ionosphere of the Earth, but since 1997 the institute exclusively researches the physics of planets and the Sun.
In 1934 Walter Dieminger founded the ionosphere observation station that was located at the test station of the airforce in Rechlin, Mecklenburg. His group finally relocated to Lindau in March 1946 after working at two other sites and became part of the then so-called Kaiser Wilhelm Society (the precursor of the Max Planck Society) as a Fraunhofer Institute. After the founding of the Max Planck Society in February 1948, the institute in Lindau was renamed Max Planck Institute for Ionosphere Research. Construction for the new building commenced in 1954.
Even while at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart (until the end of 1937), Erich Regener was very interested in the composition and physics of the stratosphere. In 1938 his newly founded Research Station for the Physics of the Stratosphere in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance became a member of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. Ten years later, after a relocation to Weißenburg near Ravensburg in 1944, the research station became a member of the Max Planck Society. It was finally named Max Planck Institute for the Physics of the Stratosphere in 1952. Following the death of Erich Regener in 1955, the institute moved to Lindau under its new head Julius Bartels.
The scientific management remained separated, but the two parts of the institute together were named Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy in 1957. The new building at the Hopfenberg was finished in 1968. A final merging of the two parts into one scientific leadership performed by the two directors Sir Ian Axford and Georg Pfotzer occurred only in 1975, however. Subsequent directors of the institute were Tor Hagfors, Helmut Rosenbauer, and Vytensis Vasyliunas.
As of 1997 the scientific work of the institute concentrates on the topics of solar and planetary physics. Since July 1st, 2004 the institute carries the name Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.
2010 brought another change for the institute: another move to a new location was approved. In the next years, a new building was to be constructed near the Northern Campus of the University in Göttingen. Already in August 2011 the ground-breaking ceremony was held, in December 2012 the roofing ceremony followed. At the beginning of 2014 the institute relocated to Göttingen.