The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) has been awarded the Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence distinction for the second time

The distinction, which provides centres with one million euros per year for four years, aims to finance and accredit institutions that demonstrate impact and leadership at an international level




The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) has obtained for the second time the Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence distinction, an accreditation that recognises centres that carry out cutting-edge basic research and are among the best in the world in their area of work. Endowed with a budget of one million euros per year for four years, the award is part of the State Sub-programme for Institutional Strengthening of the State Programme to Promote Scientific and Technical Research and its Transfer. The IAA-CSIC thus renews the distinction obtained for the period 2018-2022.

The Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, stressed that this call recognises the competitiveness and scientific leadership of research centres and units, both nationally and internationally, and their ability to attract talent. In addition to the economic endowment for each Severo Ochoa centre, an additional endowment in pre-doctoral contracts has been granted for accredited centres, which in the case of the IAA-CSIC amounts to ten, the maximum established by the resolution.

"This is recognition of the institute's research excellence and the work carried out during the previous accreditation. The Severo Ochoa project has had a transformative effect in terms of attracting international talent, rejuvenating our staff, increasing scientific production, reinforcing work on strategic international infrastructures, implementing an ambitious training programme, and gaining international visibility for the centre," says Antxon Alberdi, Director of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC).


Founded in 1975, the IAA is one of the largest centres of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). An international reference centre in astrophysics, the IAA-CSIC obtained its first Severo Ochoa distinction for the period 2018-2022. The new distinction for the period 2023-2026 will enable the centre to continue its growth, with the happy coincidence that the IAA will be celebrating half a century of activity with the most prestigious accreditation for a research centre. 

The IAA carries out research in each and every one of the main areas of modern astrophysics, from quantum gravity to the solar system and extrasolar planets, including the structure of our Galaxy, the evolution of galaxies and cosmology. This research is based on three fundamental pillars: the observation of astrophysical phenomena with the most sophisticated means, the development of new instrumentation and the theoretical study and development of numerical simulations. This breadth of knowledge and techniques, and the interconnection between them, enables the IAA to lead major international research projects.

In the 2018-2022 period, new lines of research have been defined or promoted, taking advantage of our synergistic potential. IAA staff with expertise in the atmospheres of solar system planets, stellar physics, the search for and study of exoplanets and the interstellar medium have joined their efforts and skills, incorporating both theoretical modelling and observational approaches at different wavelengths, with the valuable contribution of the CARMENES instrument. Studies of the stellar population in the Galactic Centre have been extended with the identification of the proper motion of groups of co-moving stars. The IAA has played a key role in the analysis of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) data, which captured the first image of a black hole, in the galaxy M87, and recently in the Milky Way, paving the way for high-precision tests of general relativity. The IAA is an active member of the J-PAS collaboration, which will provide an unprecedented 3D map of the universe; several galactic and extragalactic science programmes of J-PAS and its precursors, J-PLUS and mini-JPAS, are being led by the IAA. The IAA also has a strong tradition of studies on galaxy evolution, in particular on the interplay between matter accretion, star formation and active nuclei, and their impact on host galaxies. 

The IAA is leading technological developments for space, including instruments already in flight for the Bepicolombo (2018) and Solar Orbiter (2020) missions, which study Mercury and the Sun respectively. The centre is working on challenging future projects, such as the JUICE mission, which will explore Jupiter and its major moons, PLATO, which will characterise planets similar to ours around other stars, Comet Interceptor, ESA's new mission to study a pristine comet, EnVision, coordinated by ESA and NASA to study Venus, or Vigil, to study space weather.

In addition, the IAA is involved in the development of the most ambitious international research infrastructures in world astrophysics, which will make unique contributions to the frontiers of knowledge. The IAA is leading Spain's scientific and technological participation in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the largest radio telescope in the world. It is participating in the development of the European Solar Telescope (EST), which will be the largest telescope built in Europe, as well as in two of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT/ESO) instruments, MOSAIC and ANDES. It is also involved in the development of the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), which will be the main very high-energy gamma-ray observatory for the next few decades. The IAA is also co-leading the development of the next instrument for the Calar Alto Observatory's 3.5-metre telescope, TARSIS.

"With this new Severo Ochoa we will consolidate our leading role as a reference centre for research in astrophysics and space science in the international environment. We will strengthen our strategic lines of research, promoting synergies, taking advantage of our experience in multi-range astronomy (from the hot universe in gamma rays to the coldest in radio frequencies), and in advanced observation and analysis techniques (integral field spectroscopy, high angular resolution astronomy, spectropolarimetry or artificial intelligence applications)," says Isabel Márquez, Scientific Director of the Severo Ochoa project at the IAA.

The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia is part of the Severo Ochoa - María de Maeztu (SOMMa) alliance, whose mission is to defend and promote excellence in Spanish research, as well as to enhance its economic and social impact, both nationally and internationally.



Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC)
Unidad de Divulgación y Comunicación
Silbia López de Lacalle - sll[arroba] - 958230676