Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg



Local contact: Priv.-Doz. Dr. Matteo Maturi (ZAH/ITA, ITP)

The Kilo Degrees Survey (KiDS) is a multi-band optical photometric survey that will cover 1300 deg2 of the sky produced with OmegaCAM, the 32-ccd, 300-million pixel camera mounted on the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at Paranal in Chile. The weak gravitational lensing analysis of the these data allows to map the distribution of matter, both luminous and dark, and constrain the properties of the universe.


Local contact: Priv.-Doz. Dr. Matteo Maturi (ZAH/ITA, ITP)

Javalambre Physics of the Accelerating Universe Astrophysical Survey (J-PAS) is a photometric sky survey of 8500 deg2 in 59 colors, using a set of broad, intermediate and narrow band filters. This unprecedented large number of filters place J-PAS in between photometric and full integral spectroscopic surveys, delivering high accuracy photometric-redshifts and physical information of the detected objects. J-PAS will target stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters, supernovae, quasars and solar system objects with exquisite accuracy.


Local contact: Priv.-Doz. Dr. Matteo Maturi (ZAH/ITA, ITP)

Euclid is a space mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) which will produce deep optical and infrared images of 15.000 deg2 of the sky. The main goal of the mission is to investigate the nature of dark matter and dark energy. To do so, Euclid will measure the luminosity and shape of 10 billion galaxies up to redshift 2 and detect more then two million galaxy clusters.


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, third funding period: 2019 - 2022). 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. Gaia data play a key role in SFB 881. The SFB's spokesperson is Eva Grebel.

STRUCTURES excellence cluster

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

STRUCTURES explores, how complex physical structures emerge from simple rules and fundamental principles by selecting certain model systems. 8 new professorial appointments are planned. In astronomy, reionization as one of the major phase transitions in cosmic history as well as the assembly of planets out of small dust particles in accretion disks will be research topics within STRUCTURES.

STRUCTURES is organized bottom up. The cluster is led by Manfred Salmhofer, Anna Wienhard and Ralf Klessen. Also Matthias Bartelmann, Kees Dullemond, Fritz Röpke and Simon Glover participate in STRUCTURES.

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. Meanwhile, the third Gaia data catalogue (Gaia DR3) has been released on June 13, 2022.


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

Gravity, turbulence and magnetic fields are fundamental physical agents that govern the dynamical evolution of our Milky Way as a star and planet formation engine. They are simultaneously active on all scales, ranging from the Galaxy as a whole down to individual protoplanetary disks. At the same time,  the momentum and energy input from stars, in form of radiation, winds and supernovae, creates highly non-linear feedback loops that strongly influence the behavior of the system across the entire cascade of scales. We currently witness a paradigm shift in galactic astronomy and astrophysics. Approaches that treat the constituents of the Galaxy in equilibrium and look at the various scales in isolation have reached clear limits. A comprehensive model of our Milky Way needs to consider it as one single complex ecosystem. It needs to identify the initial and boundary conditions for structure formation at all scales involved, and it needs to be based on a complete inventory of the conditions conducive to the birth of stars and planets. The primary goal of ECOGAL is to build a unifying predictive model of star and planet formation in the Milky Way.


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) (last update 22/07/08)


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 a global network of archives and services in the spirit of FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reproducable) data, held together by standards and the Registry and usable through popular clients like TOPCAT, Aladin, or pyVO.  Within the VO, GAVO currently is particularly active in the fields of the queriable service registry, semi-formal semantics, and the provision of server software.

Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)

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.


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

CARMENES is a German-Spanish consortium of over 200 people in 11 institutions which has designed and built two high-resolution spectrographs covering the optical and near-infrared spectral regions installed at the 3.5m telescope at Calar Alto Observatory in Spain, optimized for high-precision radial velocities. With its 750 guaranteed nights the CARMENES consortium conducts a Doppler survey to find low-mass planets in the habitable zones of M dwarfs.

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.

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

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Quirrenbach and Dr. Florian Rothmaier (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.

Vera C. Rubin Observatory (formely LSST)

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

The ARI participates in the Rubin Observatory (formerly known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope), which will obtain deep six-color imaging of 37 billion stars and galaxies using a dedicated telescope in Chile. The Rubin Observatory carries out a a time-domain survey, gathering 20 terabytes of data every night.  The survey 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) (last update May 25, 2019)

Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)

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

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) operates dedicated telescopes in the Northern and in the Southern hemisphere. Initially, a homogeneous multi-color imaging survey of the northern hemisphere, the SDSS, is now gathering multi-epoch optical & IR spectroscopy across the entire sky. The ZAH has joined the fifth phase of the survey (SDSS-V), which also offers contiguous integral-field spectroscopic coverage of the Milky Way and Local Volume galaxies.

​International Research Network for Nuclear Astrophysics (IReNA)

Local contact: Prof. Dr. Norbert Christlieb (ZAH/LSW) (last update 21/07/01)

IReNA is a US National Science Foundation Network of Networks. It ​connects six interdisciplinary research networks across 17 countries (see below) to foster collaboration on nuclear astrophysics, complement and enhance research capabilities around the world, and thus greatly accelerate progress in science. An important component of IReNA is the training of students and other young researchers in an unique interdisciplinary, collaborative, and international environment that prepares them for a broad range of STEM careers in science, industry, government, and national laboratories.

Bulge DECam Blanco Survey (BDBS)

Local contact:  Priv. Doz. Dr. Andreas Koch-Hansen (ZAH/ARI) (last update: 21/07/12)

The Blanco DECam Bulge Survey (BDBS) is an LSST precursor program to image ~200 sq. deg. of the Galactic bulge from -10 < l < +10 to -10 < b <-2. BDBS targets the relatively low extinction regions of the Southern Galactic bulge. The Survey is in the ugrizY bands, obtained with DECam, with the goal of retaining precise photometric calibration even at the bright end.

PHANGS (Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS)

Local contact: Dr. Kathryn Kreckel (ZAH/ARI) (last update: 22/07/08)

The PHANGS (Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS) survey is making high resolution observations of nearby galaxies with several telescopes, including ALMA, Hubble, JWST and the VLT. We aim to understand the interplay of the small-scale physics of gas and star formation with galactic structure and galaxy evolution. Observations of nearby galaxies will be utilized to understand how physics at or near the “cloud” scale are affected by galaxy-scale conditions, how they affect still smaller scale processes, and how these influence the evolution of whole galaxies.

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