The Galactic Center - A Unique Laboratory for Astrophysics

Heino Falcke1

1 Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany

E-mail contact: hfalcke@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de

Looking back at the results and puzzles of the last Galactic Center workshop in Tucson and its aftermath, the talk attempts to set the stage for the upcoming discussions. The Galactic Center, being the closest center of a galaxy we can study, has become a unique laboratory for almost all areas of astrophysics: from star formation to black hole and astroparticle physics (with a possible exception of cosmology). The study of molecular clouds provides insights into the complicated chemistry of galactic centers as well as into the feeding of the nucleus. Magnetic fields obviously play a crucial role. Star formation is seen throughout the region and under extreme conditions, producing some of the most exotic and massive stars. Sgr A* has become the ultimate super massive black hole candidate with most alternative models already ruled out. The Galactic Center also is a source of gamma-rays and there is tentative evidence for a cosmic ray excess. This makes it also a prime target for upcoming high-energy and astroparticle physics experiments.