About me

Remco van den Bosch Remco van den Bosch is a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck für Astronomie in the dynamics group in the Galaxy and Cosmology department. My research focuses on the stellar dynamics of nearby galaxies and the masses of the super-massive black holes in their centers. During my PhD in Leiden, I developed sophisticated orbit-based dynamical models. As McDonald Fellow at the University of Texas in Austin and now as Fellow at the MPIA, I am doing observations with both large and small telescopes of super-massive black holes, nearby galaxies and dark matter halos.

Research interests

The publication page gives a good overview of my scientific output. There the publications are split into topical groups to highlight the different aspects of the work. For quick reference here are few selected works.

Incomplete list of collaborators and students

  • Christopher Ahn, University of Utah
  • Nicholas Boardman, St. Andrews
  • Christoph Saulder, University of Vienna
  • Akin Yildirim, MPA, Garching
  • Ignacio Martín-Navarro, UC Santa Cruz
  • Laura Watkins, STSCI
  • Ling Zhu, MPIA, Heidelberg
  • Jonelle Walsh, Texas A&M
  • Josh Adams, ASML
  • Kayhan Gültekin, University of Michigan
  • Richard McDermid, Macquarie
  • Jenny Greene, Princeton
  • Anil Seth, University of Utah
  • Karl Gebhardt, University of Texas
  • SAURON team
  • MaNGA team (ex-chair of the kinematic committee, CoCo representative for MPIA)
  • The yet-to-be-named NIFSLP team


  • Hans-Walter Rix, MPIA (current employer)
  • Glenn van de Ven, MPIA
  • Tim de Zeeuw, ESO (PhD supervisor)
  • Karl Gebhardt, University of Texas
  • Roger Davies, Oxford
  • Aaron Barth, UC Irvine

Triaxial Schwarzschild models

I have created a flexible and efficient method to construct triaxial dynamical models of galaxies with a central black hole using Schwarzschild’s (1979) orbital superposition approach. These computer models are fully general and can deal with realistic triaxial luminosity distributions, and two-dimensional stellar kinematic measurements (vdB et al. 2008). This was a non-trivial undertaking, as the parameter range to be explored is significantly larger than in axisymmetric geometry, and the internal dynamical structure is much more complicated as it includes four major orbit families, a host of minor families and chaotic orbits. More details here: Triaxial Schwarzschild models.

HET Massive Galaxy Survey

I am currently leading the HET Galaxy Survey with the Low Resolution Spectrograph on the 10m Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory in West-Texas to find all possible galaxies suitable for black hole mass estimates in the Northern Hemisphere. Using more than 550 hours we have obtained long-slit spectra of more than 1000 spirals and ellipticals galaxies to create a census of the Northern galaxies in the local volume (<150 Mpc, z<0.03). The target selection if primarily based on 2MASS photometry and redshift distances. The survey ended in the fall of 2013. The figure shows the distribution of observed galaxies in a equatorial projection. All the reduced and extracted data is available from the survey page. The main survey paper was published as van den Bosch et al. (2015).

Super-massive black hole masses

The masses of the super massive black holes in the centers of galaxies are known to correlate with several properties of the host galaxy. The most well known correlations are with the stellar velocity dispersion and total luminosity of the galaxy. These relations extend from the biggest galaxies to globular clusters. And they strongly suggest that there is a fundamental link between galaxy and black hole evolution. The relations tie together quantities that probe very different length- and mass-scales. Important questions remain about the demography of the (super-)massive black holes, with direct implications for galaxy evolution, black hole fueling and feedback from AGN. The black hole correlations are based on a small number (~90) of black hole mass estimates, the large majority of which were derived with dynamical Schwarzschild models.

There is need for more direct black hole mass measurements to understand the physical origin of the the black hole scaling relations. However, this can only be done for very few nearby galaxies, as the gravitational sphere-of-influence of the black hole needs to be spatially resolved to be able to probe the region near the black hole. The HET Massive Galaxy Survey was started to find all possible galaxies suitable for black hole mass estimates in the Northern Hemisphere. The HETMGS has allowed us to find galaxies with extremely big black holes and we are currently following those up with the Calor alto 3.5m, Harlan J. Smith, Keck and Gemini telescopes.

Most notable is the Gemini large program that started in 2016A. It will observe 31 objects with the NIFS laser guide stars adaptive optics over a period of 6 semesters.


Here is a list of projects in which I am involved [updated: mid 2016]:

And a list of other exciting things

Student research

There are several projects available for MSc, BSc and PhD students involving the biggest super-massive black holes. Please Email if interested. We also have several more projects available in our dynamics research group.


bosch (@) mpia.de




Konigstühl, Heidelberg