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The grande finale of my Euro trip 2014 was the MODEST14 conference in Bad Honnef. MODEST, standing for Modeling and Observing Dense Stellar Systems, is a very specific conference series focussing on my prime field of study: stellar dynamics. The MODEST meetings are always my favorite get-togethers as you get to meet all your friends in this small community, and within a week you have a fresh and complete overview on the current state of the field. This specific edition of the conference series was organized by Sambaran Banerjee who works in the stellar dynamics group of Pavel Kroupa at the University of Bonn. Together with his scientific and local organizing committees he did an amazing job, turning the old mansion of the DFG Physikzentrum into a club house of a debating society. The conference picture above and many more were taken by Fabian Lüghausen. The next big MODEST meeting will be in Concepción, Chile, from March 2-6.



Boat on the Neckar

Last week I’ve been to Heidelberg to visit collaborators and friends (or both). Matthias (definitely both) was kind enough to host me for the week at the Observatory (Landessternwarte), which is situated on top of the Königsstuhl high above Heidelberg Castle.  Continue reading Heidelberg

Universität Bonn


It was fun to come back to my Alma Mater in Bonn and give a colloquium at the Argelander-Institut für Astronomie. After my talk, I got great feedback from Andreas Brunthaler: the maser people from Harvard and the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie apparently get the same results for the Galactic center distance as me! This makes it an agreement between three independent methods.  Continue reading Universität Bonn



After seven long months, I’ve finally been back to beautiful Cologne (a.k.a. Köln). Seeing the Dom again was super exciting and I had to take a picture from the tram while crossing the Rhine. Besides visiting my family, I hung out with friends and collaborators in Cologne – the usual: Palomar 5 over coffee, burgers and tapas with Kölsch and wine. I also gave a talk in the Galactic-Center group of Andreas Eckart at the excellent University of Cologne. The distance from the Sun to the center of our Galaxy that they derive from careful observations of the closest stars around the central super-massive black hole Sgr A* agrees very, very well with the estimate coming from my Palomar 5 modeling. We’re all excited – finding agreement between completely independent methods is highly motivating!

(BTW: the distance is 8.3 kpc, or 26 000 light years.)


What a weekend! While back home in Köln people are going crazy about Karneval, we went out to celebrate Steffen’s farewell.


After an excessive soju warm-up over Korean BBQ in K-town, we headed over to a karaoke place (or more like upstairs, Koreans are not stupid, they know how to keep the money in the building). Steffen, Ludwig and Juan couldn’t wait and started performing over dinner already – very much to the entertainment of the entire restaurant.  Continue reading Karneval


One of the downsides of living abroad is that you’re missing important events back home. On Friday, my niece Julia was born and I couldn’t be happier about it. But not being able to see her and hold her in my arms is making me more homesick than ever. In compensation for that, and because it was overdue, I had a housewarming wine & cheese with my NY astro pals on Saturday.


The pic is taken from Kelle Cruz’s Instagram without permission. Thanks, Kelle! It was great fun, and I not only got to know my pals better, but also learned a lot about food costs in NYC. A wine & cheese, I estimated, costs pretty much twice as much as if you did the same back home in Germany!! Ach, Germany…