Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory

Stars, star formation and exoplanets


The research of our group focuses on the physics of the Galaxy. In particular, we follow three main lines of research: (i) star formation studies, from the first stages of the cloud collapse to the formation of the disk from which planetary systems originate; (iii)  exoplanets, from the analysis of the atmosphere to the study of the evolution; (iii) galactic archeology, that studies the formation and evolution of the Milky Way and the local group, based on the analysis of the chemical and physical properties of stellar populations in both clusters and the galactic field. We carry out both observational and theoretical research together with studies more focused on technology. The group is also involved in the technological development of new instrumentation and software to support space missions and surveys with ground based instruments. Furthermore, our group carries out teaching activities in collaboration with the Universities of Florence and Pisa, and is involved in outreach projects.

Star Formation: Since a long time, Arcetri has been a center of excellence for star formation studies, with many international collaborations and relevant roles in the development of future instruments. For the first phases of the star formation process we study several open issues of the physics of molecular clouds, such as the chemical evolution of the interstellar medium, the structure of the magnetic field, the processes driving cloud collapse, and the influence of cosmic rays. For what concern the more advanced phases of the process, we study the chemistry of protoplanetary disks around young stars solar-type stars, the physical properties of disks around high-mass stars, the acceleration of atomic jets and molecular outflow, and the properties of masers as tracers of star formation.

Exoplanets: Studies of the exoplanet atmospheres have been only recently started in Arcetri, but are well recognized at the international level. This research is based both on theoretical models and observations from ground and space. The main scienfic goals are: (i) studying the climatology and the chemistry of giant gaseous exoplanets; (ii) understanding the formation and evolution of exoplanets on the basis of the present epoch properties of their atmosphere; (iii) developing new techniques for studying the atmosphere of rocky planets. 

Galactic Archeology: Our group carries out a robust and extended research program focused on the study of the different components of the Milky Way and has leading roles, including managerial ones, in the main star surveys on an international level. In particular, we study the formation and dispersion of open clusters, which are the building blocks of the galactic disk, the origin of globular clusters, that allow us to go back to the earlier phases of the Galaxy formation, and the chemical properties of the Galactic disk, which are crucial to understand how it formed and evolved. Furthermore, we study the relation between stellar chemical abundances and age to develop new dating methods and better understand stellar evolution.

Technological development: as early as the 1980s, the group has contributed to the development of Italian radio telescopes, and in particular, recently, to the construction of the Sardinia Radio Telescope (SRT). The activity includes the definition of design parameters, the construction of instrumentation, the development of the network of radio observatories and its scientific use, the study of innovative technologies. In addition to the technological activities, the group collaborates to the calibration and data processing for space mission, including the European mission Gaia and to the development of software for the reduction and analysis of data taken with ground-based instruments.


Image credits from left to right: 1) ESA/PLANCK collab. 2) NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AUra) 3) ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) 4) G. Romano 5) M. Pugh 6) M. Vargic

For more information visit Group webpages


 Group Members


Francesca Bacciotti
Maria Teresa Beltrán
Riccardo Cesaroni
Claudio Codella
Davide Fedele1
Francesco Fontani
Elena Franciosini
Daniele Galli
Andrea Lorenzani
Fabrizio Massi
Laura Magrini
Anna Fabiola Marino
Luca Moscadelli
Luca Olmi
Marco Padovani
Elena Pancino
Lorenzo Pino
Linda Podio
Sofia Randich
Germano Sacco


Anna Brucalassi
Antonio Garufi
Monica Rainer
Nicoletta Sanna
Maria Tsantaki
Mathieu Van der Swaelmen


Giada Casali
Lucy Evans
Seyma Mercimek


Lorenzo Morbidelli
Veronica Roccatagliata

1: in secondment from the Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino