Reinhard Genzel

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics

Primary Section: 12, Astronomy
Membership Type:
International Member (elected 2000)


Reinhard Genzel, born 1952 in Bad Homburg v d H, Germany, is currently the Director of Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, a Professor in the Physics Department of the University of California, Berkeley, and an Honorary Professor at the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. He received his PhD from the University of Bonn (FRG) in 1978. Reinhard Genzel is a Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences. In 2020 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, jointly with Andrea Ghez, for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy.

Research Interests

My research interests are in experimental astrophysics. Our research group has been studying the physical processes and the evolution of active galaxies, particularly their central regions. One key issue is whether these galaxies are powered either by accretion onto massive black holes or by star formation and how these processes might be related. In the nucleus of the Milky Way galaxy we were able to show from near-infrared imaging observations of the motions of individual stars in the central few light days that there must be a million-solar-mass, central black hole. A key goal of our future research program is to study with high-resolution techniques the properties and evolution of star and black hole formation in the early Universe. To pursue our key research goals our group has been developing novel instrumentation, mainly in the infrared and submillimeter range, for large ground-based, airborne, and space telescopes.

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