The Einstein Tower is an icon of the modern age. It was built in 1920-22 by Erich Mendelsohn in a way that broke with all traditions. The Wüstenrot Stiftung has carried out the last two refurbishments of this significant monument. The Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) still operates the Einstein Tower in its original function: as a solar telescope.
Scroll through the history of science (above) and the history of architecture (below)!
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The Einstein Tower is a solar observatory operated by Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP). The architect Erich Mendelsohn built the Einstein Tower between 1920 and 1922. The Wüstenrot Stiftung carried out the last two major restorations of the building between 1997 and 1999 and between 2021 and 2023, with care taken to preserve all the different historical layers. The digital exhibition »Einstein Tower revisited« invites you to immerse yourself in its history and the story of how it came into being, and gain an understanding of the building’s scientific programme. It also offers an insight into what is involved in preserving the tower as a monument.

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Institutional Instrument


During the GDR era, the Einstein Tower was part of the Central Institute of Astrophysics. The research results produced during this time routinely attracted attention, both at home and abroad. This was one of the reasons why, after the Central Institute was dissolved following German reunification, the Einstein Tower not only continued to exist but was also included in the “Blue List”, a group of institutions that evolved into the Leibniz Association.

In the 1990s, the Einstein Tower became part of the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, today Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics PotsdamLeibniz Institute for Astrophysics (AIP): Founded in 1992 as the successor of the Central Institute for Astrophysics and renamed Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam in 2011. The AIP’s research areas cover solar and stellar physics with a focus on extragalactic astrophysics and solar and stellar physics, with emphasis on stellar and cosmic magnetic fields, star and galaxy formation, and cosmology. The AIP has a share in several telescopes on the Teide volcano in Tenerife and is a partner of the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona. It has also developed astronomical instrumentation for large telescopes such as the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). (AIP). Its work centred on research into cosmic magnetic fields, solar and stellar activity, and studies focused on extragalactic astrophysics. To enable research to be carried on at the highest level, the mirrors of the coelostatA celostat usually consists of two mirrors arranged in a way that a stationary telescope (e.g. a tower telescope) can be used to follow the motion of celestial bodies over the entire course of the day or night. were replaced in 1993 with glass-ceramic (“ZERODUR”) mirrors, which have better thermal properties and a minimal coefficient of expansion, with the result that measurement inaccuracies at higher temperatures are negligible.

Today, the Einstein Tower is the AIP’s institutional observatory. Its equipment is still fully functional, allowing it to take part in international field campaigns and long-term measurements. AIP scientists also use the Einstein Tower to develop and test new equipment, which is then used in the large telescopes of the Observatorio del Teide in Tenerife and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Telescope time is precious there and should not be squandered with measuring equipment that does not work properly. The Einstein Tower is of particular value because, in comparison, it is much more flexible and economical and can also be used to perfect measuring instruments over longer periods of time.

GREGOR Teleskop auf dem El Teide in Teneriffa
Since 2013, the AIP has been operating the GREGOR telescope of the Observatorio del Teide in Tenerife in conjunction with other solar research institutions. Located at an altitude of 2,400 metres, GREGOR offers much better observation conditions than are available in Potsdam and can view the Sun much more precisely with a focal distance of over 50 metres and a primary mirror with a diameter of 1.5 metres. Some of the instruments used by GREGOR were developed and tested at the Einstein Tower.
Stella Teleskop auf dem El Teide in Teneriffa
Inaugurated in 2006, STELLA is a robotic double telescope that is operated by the AIP in cooperation with the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, also in Tenerife. The primary function for which it is intended is the long-term observation of cool stars.

Some of the scientific instrumentation on the Solar Orbiter space probe, which was launched into space from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 9 February 2020, was developed in the Einstein Tower. The aim of the European Space Agency (ESA) research mission is to ascertain how the Sun creates the heliosphere – the huge area around the Sun in which the solar wind and the Sun’s magnetic field operate. The STIX X-ray telescope attached to the probe was jointly developed, tested and optimised at the Einstein Tower. STIX uses imaging spectroscopy to examine the Sun’s thermal and non-thermal X-ray emissions, which are pictured with an unprecedented high resolution. Part of this telescope is set up as an ongoing simulation in the laboratory of the Einstein Tower to enable the Solar Orbiter’s measurement results to be checked.

Labor Einsteinturm mit Versuchsaufbau der Solar Orbiter Mission
Part of the telescope of the Solar Orbiter mission is set up in the laboratory of the Einstein Tower as a simulation to improve our understanding of the mission’s measurement results.
Aufnahmen der Sonne von der Solar Orbiter Mission
Images from the Solar Orbiter mission from July 2020, preparations for which also took place at the Einstein Tower. Numerous small solar flares – or “campfires” – are visible.

The Einstein Tower is also important for training budding astrophysicists, who otherwise have limited opportunity during their studies for such direct contact with a research instrument of this kind.