Bachelor/Master Projects

If you are interested in doing your Bachelor or Master thesis in the CAST group on theoretical and computational astrophysics (see our research pages), please send us an e-mail request (in German or English) for an apointment with us. If possible, please include the following information:

- First Name
- Last Name
- Degree programme (e.g. Bachelor Physik, or Bachelor-Physik plus Astronomie)
- List of attended astronomical lectures
- Programming skills or attended numerical courses
- Possible starting date of your thesis
- Field of your interest (optionally, short explanation of your motivation)

We usually evaluate all applications within a month and will get in touch with you.
We are looking forward to you!

Please contact
A. Burkert (burkert[at]
B. Ercolano (ercolano[at]
K. Dolag (dolag[at]
for possible projects.

Finished Diploma/Master projects

Modelling Warm Dark Matter in Cosmological Simulations

The standard ΛCDM model of cosmology postulates that the formation of structures in the universe is driven by a largely unknown component of dark matter. It is one of the most important projects of modern physics to find out what dark matter is. Cosmological simulations are an important tool to predict the effects of different dark matter models, and to constrain properties of dark matter by the comparison with observations of our universe. We attempt to simulate different warm dark matter scenarios in cosmological ”zoom-in” simulations (which allow the investigation of a single object in high resolution), and comsological boxes (which exhibit low resolution, but good statistics). However, N-Body simulations of warm dark matter suffer from the artificial fragmentation of filaments into small, spurious halos. We decide to address this problem by considering new numerical approaches. As a first approach we test Adaptive Gravitational Softening, but find that it does not help out, as it does not follow the anisotropic distortions of the dark matter sheet. Therefore, we develop the new numerical technique Anisotropic Softening which is based on the potential of ellipsoids that can deform and rotate along all three axes individually. The deformations of the ellipsoid are defined by the Geodesic Deviation Equation, a numerical technique that follows the distortions of an infinitesimal volume element around each particle (Vogelsberger et al., 2008). With Anisotropic Softening we manage to match mass- and force-resolution precisely also in situations of highly anisotropic collapse, and thereby avoid any artificial fragmentation while keeping the force resolution high. As a last step we present warm dark matter simulations in a full cosmological environment that do not suffer from any fragmentation.
Jens Stücker, 2015

Angular Momentum Distribution in Galactic Halos

The evolution and distribution of the angular momentum (AM) of dark matter (DM) halos have been discussed in several studies over the past decades. To understand the connection between the AM of the DM halo and its galaxy, we extract in total more than 2,000 individual galaxies from the uhr run of Box4 of the Magneticum Pathfinder simulations at different redshifts. In these simulations we are able to split the galaxies into disk and speroidal systems. Our simulations reproduce well the observed scaling relations between the stellar mass and the stellar specific angular momentum. We find that disk galaxies preferentially reside in halos where the AM vector of the DM in the center is better aligned with the AM vector of the whole DM halo. The distribution of the spin parameter λ also shows a seperation of disk and speroidal galaxies. Download Master Thesis
Adelheid Teklu, 2014

Black Holes in the Magneticum Pathfinder Simulations

Over the last years it has been generally accepted that black holes are essential to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies. But the detailed connection between the growth and evolution of black holes and their host galaxies as well as the observed, fundamental scaling relations between them are currently only poorly understood. In my thesis the Magneticum Pathfinder simulations are analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. Resolving galaxies and AGN feedback in cosmological simulations allows challenging the understanding of galaxy formation and its connection to black hole physics. In my thesis the reliability of the current black hole model is demonstrated by comparing the simulation with observations, i.e. the relation between the black hole mass and the stellar mass, the M-sigma-relation, the stellar mass functions or the luminosity functions at various redshifts. The simulations in general are very successful in reproducing these relations. Thus it is possible to investigate in detail how black holes grow, how their luminosity evolves over cosmic time and what their environment looks like. I could show that galaxy mergers play an important role for the black hole growth and thus for the appearance of AGN, which is depicted in the figure. The red dot represents the black hole, whereas cold gas is blue, hot gas is red and stars are white. The graphs below show the mass growth and the light curve of the black hole. The peak in the luminosity appears during a merger. I also found that fainter AGN can be triggered by mergers or smooth gas accretion. Furthermore I studied AGN feedback and black hole accretion in more detail. Thus the simulation could be improved by implementing a radiative efficiency of the AGN feedback, which depends on the black hole mass. I also showed that we have to improve the accretion model. In the simulations the Bondi model is used. The Bondi accretion rate is multiplied by a boost factor. Since the choice of this factor has a significant effect on the black hole growth we have to further understand the origin of this parameter.
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Lisa Bachmann, 2014

A Disk-Disk Major Merger Event in a Zoom-Simulation

With the aim to understand the formation of galaxies and especially the impact of the gas component and the feedback on the evolution of elliptical galaxies, we performed high-resolution zoom simulations of galaxies selected from a large cosmological box (Gpc in size), which are forming at the border or inside a void structure at present day (Magneticum Pathfinder simulations). The example on the left shows, within a self consistent cosmological context, the formation of a disk galaxy from a redshift of z=10 to z=0.45, where it suffers a major merging event with another massive disk galaxy. This causes a starburst and changes the morphology of the two galaxies that then form a single spheroidal galaxy. This is an event that can be seen in the present day universe, for example in the famous Mice Galaxies or the Antennae Galaxies. Our spheroidal galaxy undergoes another dynamical event during the last 2 Gyrs of its life until the present day that is also a major component of galaxy evolution: a massive dry minor merger. This merger leaves shell-like structures around the galaxy as a signature that is visible for about 200-500 Myrs, a phenomenon that can be observed at present day, for example in the Arp 227 Galaxy.
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David Schlachtenberger, 2014

On anisotropic thermal conduction in cluster cooling flows

Observations show that thermal conduction in cooling flows of galaxy clusters is strongly suppressed in some regions. This suppression is due to the restrictive motion of charged particles in a cluster's magnetic field. In this work we derive a numerical scheme to implemented anisotropic thermal conduction in the SPH code GADGET3, enhancing the existing isotropic formulation (Jubelgas et al. 2004). We present several approaches to handle this task and discuss the outcome using test cases as well as cluster simulations.
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Alexander Arth, 2013

Functional Methods to Set Up and Analyze Hydrodynamical Simulations of Star-Forming Molecular Clouds

The thesis applies modern programming techniques to simulations of star-forming molecular clouds. It is composed of three parts: first, methods to efficiently set up, export, start, and analyze runs of a Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) simulation, using the Espresso simulator. Second, simulations of the radial density distribution of isothermal star-forming filaments using a custom one-dimensional grid simulator with cylindrical symmetry. And third, an assessment of the F# programming language, Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) and the functional programming paradigm in general for use in physical applications.
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Georg Michna, 2013

Self-regulated Star Formation in Galactic Disks, Influenced by the Accretion of Cosmic Gas

Developing and testing numerical methods to examine the appearance of a self-regulated equilibrium state in spiral disk galaxies, where the star formation rate follows the accretion rate of extragalactic gas.
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Max Brunner, 2012
Giant Clumps in High-Redshift Disk Galaxies

Giant Clumps in High-Redshift Disk Galaxies

(i) Developing the required observations and theory. (ii) Setup of stable/unstable gas disks, embedded in a spherical dark matter halo, by using the grid-code RAMSES. (iii) Analyzing of the disk transformation and the developed clumps.
Manuel Behrendt, 2011

Finished Bachelor projects
Turbulence in SPH

Turbulence in SPH

The thesis at hand has been prompted by recent publications about the "natural" limitations of smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) with regard to the simulation of turbulence. These findings center around unwanted side effects of artificial viscosity, which needs to be introduced into the otherwise perfectly Lagrangian scheme to implement dissipation. Most prominent in that regard is the paper by Bauer and Springel (2012) about deficits in the subsonic turbulent regime, which dissuades further use of SPH codes in the regime and suggests the use of moving-mesh codes like Arepo. Although a well-considered answer to that specific paper already exists in form of Price (2012), the idea had been shown to assess our current SPH code Gadget-3 equipped with state-of-the-art schemes and compare it to matching Arepo runs. To that end we performed various turbulent simulations with both Gadget-3 and Arepo. Besides the results and analysis of these simulations, this thesis contains a concise introduction to hydrodynamics as well as to the principles of the theory of turbulence, complemented by the basic concepts of smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations. The thesis also features an extensive appendix with most of the source code.
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Pascal Förster, 2014
Simulating Stephan's Quintet

N-Body/SPMHD Simulation of Stephan's Quintet

Based on previous studies we perform further N-Body- and SPMHD-Simulations with the code /GADGET/ on the history of Stephan's Quintet. We hereby tested different models concerning the angles of the galaxy discs and adapted masses of the original galaxies. We found well formed characteristical tails in the south-east in both models. It becomes apparent that the correction of the angles does have an influence on the outcome and especially on the detailed development of the tails. Additionaly we used the code Splotch to generate movies and appealing visualisiations of the performed simulations that illustrate the initial conditions as well as the activities during the interactions between the galaxies.
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Michael Hartmann, 2013
The Galactic
  Centre cloud G2 and scattering processes in the young stellar ring

The Galactic Centre cloud G2 and scattering processes in the young stellar ring

The origin and nature of the Galactic Centre cloud G2 is still a matter of investigation. Of special interest here was the so-called 'Compact Source Scenario' assuming a low-mass star as source for the observed cloud which could have been scattered by massive stars of the young stellar ring to its highly eccentric orbit around the black hole. In this bachelor thesis I focused on the question of the likelihood for a low-mass star originating from the young disk to be scattered on a G2-like orbit. For this, I made a rough analytical approach on the delivery rates on highly eccentric orbits by one single scattering event. As a comparison I run several N-body simulations which imitate the evolution of the orbits in the young stellar ring during its estimated lifetime of 6 Myr.
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Miriam Keppler, 2013
G2 cloud evolution

Investigation of the gas cloud G2 in the Galactic Centre

Recently, a gas cloud has been discovered with approximately three times the mass of the earth in the Galactic Centre. It is on a highly eccentric orbit around the supermassive black hole. The cloud named G2 reaches the pericentre radius of 36 light hours in summer 2013. Because of the gravitational force of the black hole the cloud is tidally disrupted. In my bachelor thesis I created a simulation using C++ for a simple scenario, where the gravitation dominates. Every other influence is neglected. Several simulations have been done before and the conclusion was that because of the disruption G2 formed most likely in 1995. But there is no mass that could form a cloud. So I started the simulation in 1944, in the apocentre, because there is a good enviroment for forming such a cloud. My simulations show that there is a possibility that G2 was formed in 1944. In that case the initial radius of the cloud and its mass are much smaller than assumed.
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Norbert Konrad, 2013
Spiral galaxies in cosmological simulations

Spiral galaxies in cosmological simulations

In recent studies of galaxy formation in cosmological simulations a angular momentum problem occurred leading to more compact disks compared to observations. Hence in this bachelor thesis we investigated some properties of disk galaxies, produced by the hydrodynamical cosmological simulation Magneticum, like morphology or rotation curves and compared our results with present studies and observations. Furthermore we studied how a extended gas disk formed at z=1.4. In conclusion we use a self developed method to characterize gas disks inside dark matter halos to investigate occurrence and position of disks within the simulated box.
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Felix Schulze, 2012
Angular momentum profiles of dark matter halos

Angular momentum profiles of dark matter halos

According to the standard theory of the formation of galactic discs within extended dark matter halos the angular momentum distribution (AMD) of the gas component initially mirros that of the dark material. Therefore in this picture the angular momentum profile of a galactic disc can be extracted from the profile of its halo host, once the latter is known. In this work we study the angular momentum profiles of a sample of dark matter halos drawn from the hydrodynamical cosmological simulation Magneticum. We investigate in detail the cumulative mass distribution of angular momentum and statistical properties of the AMDs of dark halos. Furthermore we analyse the AMDs of halos from various non-cosmological simulations. Finally we characterize the spatial distribution of angular momentum inside halos and compare several parameters of the AMDs of dark halos and galactic discs.
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Torben Erik Simm, 2012
Evolution of BHs in the centers of galaxies

Evolution of black holes in the centers of galaxies

In this bachelor thesis the evolution of black holes in the centre of galaxies was investigated especially concerning the temporal development of their accretion rates and their masses for different redshift intervals between z=6.8 and z=0.0 depending on the used simulation. It managed to point out a characteristic evolution of the black holes by the consideration of simulated findings. In order to test the conclusions drawn by analysing simulated findings, comparisons of observational and simulated data concerning the accretion rates and masses as well as concerning the luminosity function were done.
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Lucas Sommer, 2012
Cold streams in high-z galaxies

Cold streams in high-z galaxies

Halos at redshift z > 2 are thought to be fed by streams of cold gas, which leads to a high starformation rate at these redshifts. Hence, in this work we investigate several physical properties of halos with about 1012 solar masses from a hydrodynamical cosmological simulation at redshfit z = 2.33 and study how these properties evolve with time. In particular we focus on the different behavior of the hot and cold gas components.
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Adelheid Teklu, 2012
S-Stars in the Galactic Centre

On the Formation of the S-Stars in the Galactic Centre

In my bachelor thesis I tested a theory about the origin of the S-Stars around the central supermassive black hole (SMBH) in the center of our Milky Way: Infalling gas clouds gravitationally influence a test star situated in a distance of about 0.1 to 0.5 parsec from the SMBH with the result that it's orbit is bound much closer to the black hole than before. For this tests I wrote numerical simulation programs to simulate these 3-body-scenarios over a wide range for parameters like infall direction of the cloud, its speed and the orientation of the test star orbit in relation to the cloud.
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Christian Franik, 2011
Dynamics of the Milky Way - Andromeda System

Dynamics of the Milky Way - Andromeda System

In my bachelor thesis I should calculate the time of the possible collision between the Milky Way and the Andromeda-Galaxy. Therefore I created a program using Fortran, that computed the velocity and the position of the two big galaxys only under the influence of the gravitation force between them. I used the Leapfrog-method, which is more exact than the Euler algorithm, because it calculates position and velocity at different time-steps. The result was that the possible merger of Milky Way and Andromeda starts in 2 - 3 billion years. In the picture you can see the time until the two galaxies begin zu merge. The red line is the velocity of Milky Way and the green one that of Andromeda. The two horizontal lines represent the actual difference of the velocities of Milky Way and Andromeda. So the collision takes place in about 2 Gyr.
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Sheila Hieber, 2011
Massflow in cosmic filaments

Massflow in cosmic filaments

In my bachelor thesis I studied the flow of gas and dark matter in cosmic filaments. The initial point was a simulated protocluster at z = 2, performed by the GADGET 2 code. The first step was to approximate the curved filaments with cylinders. In a next step I calculated the parallel und perpendicular component of velocity and massflow. In cosmic filaments matter is first accreted to the central region of the filament where it then streams to the central galaxy cluster. The flow of the gas component is strongly dependent on temperature.
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Klaus Jakabos, 2011
Filamentary Bubbles

Filamentary structure of wind blown superbubbles

In my thesis I studied the fractal character of a simulation of two wind-blown superbubbles colliding in the interstellar medium. Molecular hydrogen is blown away from two new born stars. At the meeting point the gas shows a more and more fragmental shape. The fractal dimension was calculated via the box counting method for different thresholds of hydrogen density as well as for different time steps after star formation. Plots of different timesteps and hydrogen thresholds as well as corresponding results for the fractal dimension are shown. The fractal dimension as a function of the density threshold can also be seen.
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Birgitta Müller, 2011
The influence of central supermassive black holes on major
  merger remnants

The influence of central supermassive black holes on major merger remnants

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David Schlachtenberger, 2011