The Laboratory Astrophysics and Cluster Physics Group of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, at the Institute of Solid State Physics results from a cooperation between the Max Planck Institute and the Friedrich Schiller University. Inaugurated in February 2003, it is conducted by Prof. Dr. Thomas Henning and PD Dr. Cornelia Jäger.
The research of the Laboratory Astrophysics and Cluster Physics Group is devoted to fundamental astrophysical questions that can be answered by laboratory experiments, with particular emphasis on condensation, irradiation-induced processing, and spectroscopy of cosmic dust grains and molecules. The electromagnetic radiation reaching us from stellar objects is modified in a characteristic manner by interstellar molecules and dust particles. Many of these "fingerprints" are still far from being understood. In order to determine the species causing the modification of the electromagnetic signals detected by telescopes and satellites, comprehensive laboratory studies are urgently needed.
The laboratory is equipped with several modern condensation setups, molecular beam machines, and flow reactors as well as dedicated laser systems to contribute to the clarification of fundamental astrophysical questions. For this purpose, the molecules, clusters, and nanoparticles of interest are prepared in vacuum chambers under conditions coming close to those encountered in the interstellar space (low temperature and low density).
Present projects focus on the synthesis of carbon- and silicon-based clusters and nanoparticles and their characterization, on the UV/Vis/IR spectroscopy of astrophysically relevant molecules in free jets and cryogenic rare gas matrices, and on simple reactions at very low temperature in helium droplets (see the individual projects for details).