Star-forming region

A star-forming region (Copyright: NASA ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), ESA/Hubble Collaboration)


The aim of this key research area is to understand the origin and evolution of stars, galaxies, and planets like Earth. Making use of state-of-the-art observational facilities across the world and in space, as well as high-performance computers, this research area quantifies the physical and chemical processes involved in the transformation of pristine gas into stars, galaxies, and rocky planets like Earth. The search for our cosmic ancestry is key to understand Earth as a member of a planetary system orbiting a star, orbiting a galaxy, interacting with the interplanetary and interstellar medium, exposed to cosmic events potentially affecting life on the planet.

The relevant physical parameters and conditions, such as the size, shape, composition, and dynamics of galaxies, stars, gas and cosmic dust, are measured and derived from the observation of light across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. For this purpose, the Faculty uses the large telescopes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and high-performance ESA and NASA satellites, as well as UniBRITE, Austria’s first satellite. The links between empirical results and modeling, and especially the chronological sequences of cosmological and astrophysical processes, are studied via numerical simulations on high-performance computers – for instance, at the Vienna Scientific Cluster.

The combination of observation, theory, numerical simulations, data visualization, and instrumentation forms the basis for fundamental insights into key processes in the universe, including the origin of our planet, its relation to the solar system and the Milky Way, and conditions for life.