Günther Hasinger appointed as ESA Director of Science
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Günther Hasinger appointed as ESA Director of Science

December 15, 2017

 

The Council of the European Space Agency announced the appointment of Günther Hasinger as the next Director of Science. He will succeed Alvaro Giménez, who has served in the position since 2011. Prof. Hasinger is currently Director of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii.

 

Dr. Günther Hasinger is a world leader in the field of X-ray astronomy and in the study of black holes, objects whose gravity is so strong that not even light can escape from them. He received his physics diploma from Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) of Munich, and in 1984, he earned a PhD in astronomy from LMU for research done at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE).

 

After visiting lectureships in the United States, he returned to Germany to take a position at the University of Potsdam. He served as director of the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam from 1994 to 2001. In 2001, he was appointed as a scientific member of the Max Planck Society, one of the world’s premier research organizations, and as the director of the High-Energy-Group at MPE. In 2007, he spent four months at the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) while on sabbatical, and in 2008 he became scientific director at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP), the position he relinquished to become the director of the IfA.

 

Dr. Hasinger has received numerous awards for his research and scientific achievements, including the Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the most significant research prize in Germany, and the international Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Award for his outstanding contributions to space science. He is a member of the Academia Europea, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, and Leopoldina (the German National Academy of Sciences), and an external member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

 

Together with his colleagues, Dr. Hasinger resolved the cosmic X-ray background radiation into distinct objects, which were then identified mainly as active black holes in distant galaxies. These studies showed that the cosmological evolution of active galactic nuclei (the centers of galaxies that emit much more radiation than can be produced by stars alone) is closely associated with the star-forming history of galaxies in the Universe and that black holes are likely motors for the development of galaxies.

 

Dr. Hasinger has also played a key role in the operation of X-ray satellites and the development of future observatories. When the attitude control system of ROSAT, a joint German-UK-US X-ray and ultraviolet satellite, failed soon after launch in 1990, Dr. Hasinger was instrumental in developing a new control system that enabled the satellite to continue its mission.

 

Dr. Hasinger has also held several important national and international responsibilities, such as the chair of the Council of German Observatories and the president of the International Astronomical Union Division on Space and High Energy Astrophysics. He played a significant role in improving the financial constraints of basic space research in Germany and Europe.

 

In addition to writing numerous scientific papers, Dr. Hasinger is the author of an award-winning book, Fate of the Universe, which explains astrophysics and cosmology to a wider audience, and the winner of the Wilhelm Foerster Prize for public dissemination of science in 2011.

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