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Press Release of June 10, 2010
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Kirpal Nandra appointed as new Director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics

Kirpal Nandra
Dr. Kirpal Nandra will be officially appointed as new MPE director on 1. August 2010.
Image: MPE
The open position on the Board of Directors at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics is now filled: Kirpal Nandra joins the institute as new director and head of the high-energy research group. His long experience in X-ray astronomy actively complements the two other astrophysical groups at the institute that study objects such as stars, galaxies and the large scale structure in the universe with optical, infrared and sub-millimetre astronomy.

The Briton Kirpal Nandra most recently held a Professorship in the astrophysics group at Imperial College, London. His internationally recognised research programme in X-ray astronomy has already received several awards and honours. Among other objects, his work focuses on black holes in active galaxies and their evolution. Because of their immense gravitational pull, these very massive black holes accrete large amounts of matter from their surroundings. Due to the energy released, the innermost region of the galaxy lights up over a broad wavelength range, in particular in high-energy X-rays. These so-called Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) therefore are among the brightest objects in space.

"Black holes are the most extreme objects that we know, and it is amazing how much we have learned about them already," says Nandra. "All big galaxies in the nearby universe seem to have a black hole in their centre, including the Milky Way, as has been proven by my new colleagues at MPE. One of my main interests is in understanding how, when and why these black holes grow throughout the history of the cosmos. A lot of my research involves X-ray observations, but if we want to understand black holes and how they influence their surroundings, we need information from all wavelengths."

Nandra's research interests also include observations of material close to the co-called "event horizon" of black holes, the point of no return beyond which nothing can escape. He therefore continues to be involved in many observing programmes, which mainly collect data in X-rays, using telescopes such as Chandra and XMM-Newton, to which MPE has contributed key instrumentation. His main new task at MPE will be to oversee the completion, commissioning of and science with the space X-ray telescope eROSITA, which will perform the first imaging all-sky survey in the medium energy X-ray range, with unprecedented spectral and angular resolution. Nandra is also active in the definition of the International X-ray Observatory, IXO, a next generation project that will study black holes and the evolution of galaxies and other structures in the universe with even higher resolution and sensitivity, which could be launched around 10 years from now.

AEGIS field
X-ray image of the "AEGIS" field, which was observed in all wavebands to study the co-evolution of black holes and their host galaxies. The Chandra AEGIS team at Imperial College is led by Kirpal Nandra.

Image: Chandra/Imperial College
black hole disk
One part of Kirpal Nandra's work is to look close to the event horizon of accreting black holes with X-rays, as is shown here in this artist's impression.

Image: Bromley, Miller & Pariev 1998, Nature
Planning for the future: Illustration of the IXO spacecraft, fully deployed.

Image: ESA

"We are very happy, that Kirpal Nandra has accepted the offer to become the new director at MPE, he is the ideal candidate for us," says Reinhard Genzel, managing director at MPE. "His experience in X-ray astronomy means that he can seamlessly take over the high-energy group. In addition, he is already taking part in many existing and future projects, in which our institute is heavily involved."

Nandra started already part time at the institute on 1. June 2010 and will be officially appointed as new MPE director and head of the high-energy group on 1. August 2010. He succeeds GŁnther Hasinger, who moved to the Max Planck Institute for Plasmaphysics in autumn 2008.


Hannelore Hämmerle internal link Dr. Hannelore Hämmerle
Press Officer
Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics
Phone: +49 89 30000-3980
E-Mail:   hannelore.haemmerle

Kirpal Nandra Prof. Dr. Kirpal Nandra
Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics
Phone: +49 89 30000-3401
E-Mail:   knandra

Reinhard Genzel internal link Prof. Dr. Reinhard Genzel
Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics
Phone: +49 89 30000-3280
E-Mail:   genzel

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