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about me

I am  staff astronomer at AIP since 1994 when I became team leader of the new optical instrumentation group at AIP. My first task was to help establish new research infrastructure  (see projects  page), which has kept me busy for a couple of years. My most recent activities in this still on-going process are related to the refurbishment of three historical meridian circle buildings at Sternwarte Babelsberg, and their conversion to a new Media and Communication Center.

I am predominantly interested in  astronomical instrumentation  and the application of innovative technologies to observational problems in astronomy. I am particularily excited about the potential of applying established tools of stellar astrophysics to stars in galaxies beyond the Milky Way, which appears to have great prospects with 8-10m class telescopes, and even more so with future ELTs. In this context, we are developing techniques for improved spectroscopic observations of background - limited point sources in nearby galaxies, based on the method of  integral field spectroscopy (IFS). We have only recently finished the development of PMAS, the Potsdam Multi-Aperture Spectrophotometer, which was designed specifically for this goal. PMAS is now operated as common user instrument at the Calar Alto 3.5m Telescope. As the major objective of the ULTROS project, we are now using PMAS to explore the capabilities of IFS for background-limited, faint object spectroscopy. Another project down the road is our participation in the MUSE collaboration, which is a joint effort for the development of a wide-field, faint object integral field spectrograph for the ESO-VLT. This project is currently at the stage of a Phase-A study.

My astrophysical interests are significantly influenced by instrumental and observational considerations. I am specifically interested in late stages of stellar evolution, namely planetary nebulae and their central stars. Using the potentential of IFS for  point source observations in crowded field environments and the demonstrated advances compared to conventional slit spectroscopy, we are conducting a long-term programme to observe extragalactic planetary nebulae in local group galaxies, using PMAS at the Calar Alto 3.5m Telescope. As part of a collaboration with S. Fabrika, S. Afanasiev, and S. Dodonov (SAO, Selentchuk), we are observing luminous stars and associated nebulosities in nearby galaxies, involving for a large part MPFS at the 6m BTA. We have applied IFS successfully to other point or point-like sources, e.g. the optical counterpart of a superluminous x-ray source in Holmberg-II, and SN2000er in UGC10743. The study of resolved stellar populations in nearby galaxies is also a Work Plan Task of the Euro3D Research Training Network, of which I am the coordinator. Euro3D is an initiative of 11 European institutes with the goal to popularize integral field spectroscopy by means of a joint training programme for young researchers, with funding from the European Commission.