I was born in Mannheim, Germany, on August 22, 1967, where I also went to school later. I am married (no kids), and while my wife Claudia is not an astronomer, we actually met first at an astronomy conference in Chile.
I became interested in astronomy at about the age of ten, and basically from then on, with quite a few years in between of other things being far more interesting, of course, wanted to study it. In Germany one cannot study astronomy from scratch; it's only offered from post-graduate level on, and so in 1988 I started to study physics in Heidelberg.
After exploring some interest in particle and high-energy physics, I came to classical astrophysics and in 1994/1995 wrote a thesis under the supervision of Prof. Bernhard Wolf at the Landessternwarte Königstuhl about three B-type hypergiants and their winds.
I stayed at the hot star group of the Landessternwarte in Heidelberg for my PhD-studies, but changed the focus from hot giant stars to more normal main sequence stars. Not that normal, though: My PhD-thesis is about Be stars, stars that rotate almost so fast that they spill off gas from their equator. The big riddle of Be stars is the missing thing on top of the "almost". In 1998 I finished my PhD, showing that spectral variability in one Be star, μ Centauri, is due to stellar non-radial pulsation with multiple frequencies, and that the beating of those frequencies triggers the mass loss.
I stayed in Heidelberg for a few more months and in 1999 went to ESO-Garching as a postdoctoral fellow for three years, until 2002. As functional duty I went to Paranal observatory, four times a year two weeks each, to support the science operations. After this fellowship I returned to Heidelberg for a three-year fixed term position. During this time I started the habilitation, which in the German academical system is the highest qualification, required to teach at an university and promote students. I finally obtained that qualification in 2006. Already since May 2005, however, I'm back at ESO, this time as staff member of the science operations group in Chile and on the Paranal Observatory.
As an observer for my own science, but also as part of my functional duties, I spent hundreds of nights at telescope controls; on three continents, so far. Among the smallest was the ESO 50cm on La Silla, and the biggest were the four 8.2m unit-telescopes on Paranal. In 2005, I've started working with more that one telescope at the same time, a technique called interferometry.
The instruments I worked on, more than just observing with, are the transportable echelle instrument HEROS, where I did the upgrade of the CCD-system and frequent re-alignment of the instrument after transportation to a new telescope; and from 2007 to 2011 I was responsible for the mid-infrared interferometric instrument MIDI as instrument scientist.
Well, I still have my first program: on punchcard. That said, I have to admit that I have little to no idea of non-Unix/Linux OSes, and for the latter ones I definitively prefer KDE. As a side effect, these pages were never tested with the IE; nor will they ever be. I can program in Fortran and pure C, which is good enough for the number crunching models astronomers typically code. I also know one or two html-tags, a few words in css and some php commands. My job at ESO includes administering the SciOps internal web services, and to work with our IT support on improving our services.
For writing texts I use LaTeX, and as the daily astronomy workhorse I use (and program) ESO-MIDAS. There's nothing wrong with sending me .doc or .xls files, as long as OpenOffice can handle them. If not, I'll probably send you my answer in DVI-format.
Scripting tasks I solve in either ESO-MIDAS (sic!) or with bash. My favourite editor is emacs ever since I got stuck in a vi session. Never mind if you don't know what I'm talking about; if you do, though, you probably know me quite well now.Rivi; Sep 2007