Thomas K. Henning

Thomas K. Henning investigates the formation of stars and planets both with dedicated observing programs on infrared and submillimeter telescopes and with computer models. In the laboratory, he investigates how dust particles and complex organic molecules form under astrophysically relevant conditions.
Life at 4,320 meters altitude—El Tatio geyser field in the northern Chilean Andes.

Thomas Henning has always been interested in fundamental physical and chemical processes. As a school student he established his own chemical laboratory and later became interested in non-linear dynamics.

Today Henning is working on understanding how stars and planets form. He is hunting for exoplanets with a variety of methods from radial velocity searches to transit observations and direct imaging. Henning is combining infrared observations at high spatial resolution with large-scale numerical simulations and dedicated laboratory experiments. He is leading the MPIA Planet and Star Formation Department and is a Professor at the University of Heidelberg and Jena.

Henning established the Heidelberg Origins of Life Initiative (HIFOL) and is a Co-I of major instrumentation projects such as MIRI for the James Webb Space Telescope.

Research Interests

Early stages of
star formation

Massive star

Protoplanetary disks
and planet formation

Exoplanets and
brown dwarfs

Physics and chemistry of
the interstellar medium


The Heidelberg Initiative for the Origins of Life brings together researchers from astrophysics, geosciences, macromolecular chemistry, statistical physics and life sciences from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics and the University of Heidelberg in order to further our understanding of the origins of life in the universe.

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