Thomas Henning - Honorary Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

June 19, 2019
Prof. Thomas Henning, Director of the Department of Planet- and Star Formation at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, has been elected an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). This was announced by the MTA (Hungarian: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia) following its last General Assembly.

At the 191st General Assembly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA), 17 internationally renowned scientists were recently named honorary members of the Academy. According to the assembly’s statutes, scientists working abroad who are active in their field at the highest international scientific level and whose achievements are particularly appreciated by the Hungarian scientific community are eligible to receive this honour.

Thomas Henning has been Director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg since 2001 and heads the Department of Planetary and Star Formation (PSF) as well as a laboratory astrophysics group in Jena. His work focuses on the formation of massive stars in the Milky Way, the observation and physical modelling of planetary discs around very young stars, the search for exoplanets and their characterisation, as well as the characterisation of the physical and chemical properties of the interstellar medium (gas and dust). In addition, Thomas Henning has been and continues to be involved – partly in a leading position – in various large instrumentation projects, which have significantly advanced the observation of exoplanets and our understanding of their formation. Henning also launched the Heidelberg Initiative for the Origins of Life (HIFOL) five years ago and is to open new laboratories in Heidelberg in March 2020.

Henning has a long-standing relationship with his colleagues at the Hungarian Astronomical Academy Institute – the Konkoly Observatory. Together, for instance, Henning and his Hungarian colleagues have investigated the light eruptions of very young "baby" stars, searched for minerals in protoplanetary discs and examined them with the ALMA interferometer.

The Hungarian Academy is the most important scientific institutional and academic institution in Hungary, with its academy institutes consisting of 11 sections and over 100 research groups or institutes. Founded in 1825, in its function as a national academy it collaborates with UNESCO, the International Science Council and the EU Commission to organise the renowned World Science Forum, which takes place every two years in the Hungarian capital Budapest. The structural existence of the Academy Institutes recently came under threat by government plans to incorporate the institutes into a new organisation based on the model of the Max Planck Society (MPG). This could be viewed positively, were not the issue of independence – as it is granted to the MPG –  questionable in light of the current government’s policy. In this regard, foreign scientists of particular renown – such as Professor Thomas Henning – have a particularly important role to play.

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