DESY Introduces Astroparticle Physics Research Division

DESY is expanding exploration of the universe with a new research division for astroparticle physics. Such physics has developed rapidly in recent years, according to DESY, and the expansion means the agency will soon have four research divisions, including accelerators, photon science, particle physics and astroparticle physics.

Within astroparticle physics, DESY is currently concentrating on the study of cosmic gamma radiation and high-energy neutrinos from outer space. Neutrinos are lightweight elementary particles that can easily penetrate entire stars and therefore offer a glimpse of regions that are opaque to light and other types of electromagnetic radiation. Both gamma ray and neutrino astronomy are exceedingly dynamic fields of research, and DESY is one of the leading institutes involved in large international observatories such as the future Cherenkov Telescope Array and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole.

Theoretical astroparticle physics is responsible for the important task of interpreting data provided by the various different cosmic messengers and describing how they are connected. It studies high-energy particles from outer space that originate in high-energy phenomena such as supernova explosions and active galactic nuclei. It aims to gain a fundamental understanding of the role of high-energy particles and processes involved in the evolution of the universe, thereby providing important foundations for the search for dark matter and physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics.

It is now possible, for example, to measure all the different cosmic messengers—from cosmic rays to gravitational waves—and to combine this information with observations made in classical astronomy. The emerging field of combined observations of different “messengers,” called multi-messenger astronomy, paints a new picture of the high-energy universe.

“We are on the threshold of a golden age in multi-messenger astronomy,” says Christian Stegmann, head of DESY’s Zeuthen site and the upcoming director in charge of astroparticle physics. “And the breathtaking speed with which spectacular findings have been made in recent years means that launching the new research division of astroparticle physics is a step into the future for DESY.”