Stars, Planets and Life

With the help of state-of-the art simulations and observations researchers at USM investigate the formation of stars and planets, the structure and dynamics of protoplanetary disks, and the signatures that different processes of planet evolution leave in planetary atmospheres.

Artist’s impression of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system

Chairs / Research Groups

We work towards understanding the processes involved in the formation of planets. The group uses mainly computational tools to model and simulate the structure and evolution of circumstellar disks and the growth processes that lead from sub-micrometer sized dust particles all the way to terrestrial planets or giant planets. We work closely with observational groups to test our predictions or to explain observational properties of the cradles of planets.

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Professor Barbara Ercolano and her group are pioneers in the field of star and planet formation, in particular, on how those two processes are linked via the formation of protoplanetary disks.

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Professor Kevin Heng and the exoplanet chair work broadly on the theory, observations, simulations and phenomenology of exoplanet science with a strong focus on the atmospheres of exoplanets as the only empirical window into probing their chemistry, formation history and habitability conditions.

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The Young Stars & Star Formation group at the Universitäts-Sternwarte München (USM) is lead by Prof. Dr. Thomas Preibisch. The group performs, analyzes, and interprets observations of individual young stars and whole star forming regions at optical, infrared, X-ray, and sub-mm wavelengths.

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The main focus of the research group is the investigation of hot (and mostly massive) stars, particularly with regard to their (line-radiation driven) stellar winds. The primary objective are model simulations and the computation of synthetic spectra for O/B stars and objects with analogue properties such as Central Stars of Planetary Nebulae.To that end, the group has developed the NLTE, unified model atmosphere codes WM-Basic and FASTWIND, and is continously updating and improving the latter.

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Prof. Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the MIAPbP and former director of the LMU Observatory (USM), continues to actively research in the field of extragalactic stellar spectroscopy in close collaboration with various USM research groups (e.g. CAST).

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Carina nebula, image taken by the Herschel Space Telescope

© Herschel Space Telescope / Preibisch