Professor Christian Stegmann, a particle astrophysicist from the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), expressed his desire for the German Astrophysics Center (DZA) to become the second CERN in Europe. He visited universities in Poland, seeking partners for this ambitious endeavor.
As part of the German federal government’s initiative, ‘Knowledge Creates Perspectives for the Region’, 40 billion euros will be allocated from the state budget by 2038 for strengthening and transforming mining regions that currently suffer from population outflow and limited employment opportunities.
One of the winning projects in Saxony under this strategy is the establishment of the German Astrophysics Center (DZA) in Görlitz, a city located on the Polish-German border. Prof. Christian Stegmann stated, “We want the German Astrophysics Center to become the second CERN in Europe. I am visiting universities in Poland, searching for willing partners.”
When asked about the comparison to CERN, he explained that just as CERN was established shortly after World War II to enhance international cooperation and lift Europe out of turmoil, it is now time to build a protective shield against Russia, which attacked Ukraine.
The concept of the Astrophysics Center is based on three pillars. Firstly, it will serve as a hub for cutting-edge astronomical research, with initial emphasis on radio astronomy and gravitational waves, eventually encompassing all astronomical data.
The second pillar involves handling the worldwide data stream collected and processed at the DZA. This includes data obtained from future large telescopes such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the Einstein Telescope. Accommodating the data influx from these telescopes will require advancements in internet technology. The Astrophysics Center aims to manage this “data tsunami” and accelerate Germany’s digitization process.
The third pillar focuses on the technological center, where the development of new semiconductor sensors, silicon optics, and control techniques for observatories will take place. The German government hopes that investments in transforming mining regions will yield new industrial branches, attracting talented young individuals and revitalizing depopulated areas.
Leading the initiative to establish the Astrophysics Center is Professor Günther Hasinger, the scientific director of the European Space Agency (ESA).
Astrophysics is a technologically advanced field, and its research has contributed to the existence of variable-focus lenses, ceramic plates, essential components of mobile phones, navigation systems, and satellite-based electronic transfers.
Currently, astrophysics is experiencing a significant boom, with half of the Nobel Prizes in Physics awarded in the last decade recognizing achievements in astronomy, astrophysics, and particle astrophysics. Modern astronomical observations differ greatly from those of earlier times. State-of-the-art telescopes are spread worldwide, serving scientists from all nations. They are located in the highlands of Chile, Australia, and deep within the Antarctic ice.
“DZA also faces challenges that are important from a societal perspective. Forecasts predict that IT will consume 20% of the world’s electricity production soon. DZA aims to meet these challenges by accelerating eco-friendly processing, resource-saving digitization, and the development of new technologies,” Christian Stegmann stated.
As part of the Astrophysics Center construction project in the area between Hoyerswerda, Bautzen, and Kamenz, an underground research laboratory called Low Seismic Lab will be established. It will also be available for industrial applications, such as quantum computer development.
“Görlitz is an excellent location for DZA due to its proximity to university cities such as Dresden, Wrocław, and Prague. This natural advantage will facilitate collaboration among these centers,” emphasized Christian Stegmann.