Exoplanets & Exploring

Hi! I am an astrophysicist hunting for habitable(?) exoplanets. 

What's my story? I am the European Space Agency (ESA) Project Scientist & Mission Representative for the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite (CHEOPS), and science team member of several other ground- and space-based missions (TESS, SPECULOOS, ASTEP, and NGTS). My base is the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands. I am fascinated by our quest to find Earth-sized exoplanets around small stars, and the big question of how stellar flares impact their habitability. Whenever I am not searching for new worlds, I enjoy exploring our own Earth, travelling, and the outdoors (scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking).

What did I do before that? Previously, I was an ESA Research Fellow at ESTEC, and a Juan Carlos Torres Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I obtained my PhD working with Nobel-Laureate Professor Didier Queloz at the University of Cambridge, UK. My research focused on how we can distinguish between real exoplanets and things that look like exoplanets, but are not (false positives). As part of the NGTS team, I helped with installing telescopes, developing novel algorithms, and hunting for Jupiter- and Neptune-sized exoplanets. Prior to that, for my Master’s Thesis, I had done something completely different: research in a biophysics lab at the University of Austin at Texas, USA. I developed a mathematical model to understand Drosophila models of genetic diseases like Alzheimer's and Fragile X. My underlying physics undergraduate education came from the University of Würzburg, where I also wrote a Bachelor's thesis on black hole mega-masers.

Expertise: Space- and Ground-based Telescopes, Exoplanets, Stellar Flares, Cool Stars, Habitability

Skills: Project Management, Bayesian Statistics, Machine Learning, Time Series Analysis

Oct 21, Engaging the public with our science projects at ESA and chatting with our very own astronaut André Kuipers!

Sep 21, First day at ESA! Having an office right next to original astronaut suits is preeetty cool.

May 21, Floating in zero gravity for the first time. Remarkably close to scuba diving! Read more.

May 21, We are really boarding the Zero G plane to conduct our O-scillation experiment! Read more.

May 20, While allesfitter has been useful for many studies for a long time already, the accompanying paper is finally out! Read more.

Credit: Tansu Daylan

Oct 19, My PhD supervisor, Prof. Didier Queloz, just won the Nobel Price in Physics! Read more.

Sep 19, Secured two grants to design and conduct two experiments on a zero gravity flight; one will be related to prebiotic chemistry in artificial gravity. Read more.

Jul 19, Our TOI-270 system is published and got world-wide media attention, as we hope to understand the "missing link" between rocky Earths and puffy sub-Neptunes. Read more.

Jan 19, Our first TESS study of stellar flares and how they could impact the origin of life on exoplanets. Read more.

Sep 18, Started as a Torres Fellow at MIT, working closely with the TESS science team. Read more.

Aug 18, Volunteered with Love The Oceans in Mozambique: marine biology field work, scuba diving, and work with the local schools. Read more.

July 18, Graduated from the University of Cambridge with a PhD in (astro-)physics.

Apr 18, Launch of TESS on the SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral. Read more.

Oct 17, Meeting Nobel laureate Rainer Weiss on the day of his award. Read more.

Sep 16, Advancing my Spanish for a month at Universidad de La Habana, Cuba with an A.J. Pressland Fund scholarship. Read more.

Feb 16, Joined Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and German Ambassador Ammon for the Kurt Hahn Dinner in the German Embassy in London.

Apr 15, My first visit to Paranal: working on NGTS, and exploring the worlds driest desert, Atacama, and its unbelievable night sky. Read more.

Oct 14, Started my PhD at the University of Cambridge. The first milestone of an exciting and long academic journey!


European Space Agency (ESA)European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC)Keplerlaan 1, 2201 AZ Noordwijk, The NetherlandsEmail: maximilian.guenther [at] esa.int Twitter: @m_n_guenther

Image Credits

Zero G: Steve Boxall/ZERO-GExoplanet & Stellar Flares: Sci-News.com / NASATOI-270: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott WiessingerStellar Flares: NASA's Goddard Space Flight CenterTESS: NASA's Goddard Space Flight CenterNGTS: ESO/Gregory Lambert