Development after the Second World War

Making a new start after the war was very difficult. In Potsdam, the Einstein Tower had suffered heavy bomb damage. In Babelsberg, valuable instruments, including the 122cm telescope, had been dismounted and sent to the Soviet Union as war reparations.

In January 1947, the German Academy of Sciences took the Astrophysical Observatory Potsdam and the Babelsberg Observatory under its administration, but it was not until the beginning of the 1950s that astronomical research began anew.

In June 1954, the Observatory for Solar Radio Astronomy in Tremsdorf, 17 km to the southeast of Potsdam, began working as part of the AOP. Its history began in 1896. After the discovery of radio waves by Heinrich Hertz in 1888, Johannes Wilsing and Julius Scheiner, fellows of the AOP, tried to detect radio emissions from the Sun, but due to the low sensitivity of their equipment they did not succeed. After the Second World War Herbert Daene once again attempted radio observations of the Sun at Sternwarte Babelsberg and these were continued in Tremsdorf. In October 1960 the 2m telescope built by Carl Zeiss Jena was inaugurated in the Tautenburg Forest near Jena and the new Karl Schwarzschild Institute was founded. The Schmidt variant of this telescope is still the largest astronomical wide-field camera in the world and was the main observational instrument of the GDR’s astronomers.

In 1969, during the GDR’s process of educational reform, the four East-German astronomical institutes (Astrophysical Observatory Potsdam, Babelsberg Observatory, Thuringian Sonneberg Observatory, and Karl-Schwarzschild Observatory Tautenburg) were joined to the GDR Academy of Sciences’ Central Institute of Astrophysics. The Solar Observatory, Einstein Tower, and Observatory for Solar Radio Astronomy were later also affiliated.

One section of their scientific activities concerned cosmic magnetic fields and cosmic dynamos, phenomena of turbulence, magnetic and eruptive processes on the Sun, explosive energy dissipation processes in plasmas, variable stars, and stellar activity. Another section was directed towards the early phases of cosmic evolution and the origin of structures in the Universe, large-scale structures up to the size of superclusters, and to active galaxies. Special methods of image processing were developed during this institutional interconnection and investigations in astrometry were also performed.

The scientific work of the Central Institute of Astrophysics suffered greatly due to the isolation of the GDR from the western world. It was very difficult to make contact with western colleagues. When the Wall was demolished in the autumn of 1989, new possibilities immediately arose.

On the basis of the prescriptions of the Unification Treaty for the GDR’s Academy of Sciences, the Central Institute of Astrophysics was dissolved on December 31, 1991. At the recommendation of the German Council of Science and Humanities, the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam was founded and became part of the "Bund-Länder-Förderung" (today's Leibniz Association) on January 1, 1992. The Sonneberg Observatory and the Karl Schwarzschild Observatory Tautenburg were no longer affiliated with the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam.  In April 2011 the AIP was renamed as "Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP)". Today 200 people work at the research facilities in Potsdam Babelsberg.