A short History of IASF Palermo
The IASF Palermo was born as IFCAI, an Institute of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR),
in 1981 with the main objective of studying the high energy radiation of galactic and extragalactic sources with instruments on board space missions.
The group of scientist that gave origin to the IFCAI, was formally belonging since 1968 to a detached section of the CNR laboratory of Fisica Cosmica e
Tecnologie Relative in Milan (today IASF Milano).
The original group (working under the scientific guide of Prof. Livio Scarsi) included also
researchers working on computer science in studying and developing mathematical methods for the analysis of images and time series from X
and Gamma rays observations.
X-ray astronomy has been one of the main activity of IASF Palermo since its foundation with the participation to the European Spatial Agency (ESA) missions EXOSAT (launched in May 1983)
and SpaceLab. Since 1980 to the end of the mission, IASF Palermo researchers were strongly involved in the BeppoSAX satellite.
The X-ray astronomy satellite BeppoSAX (Satellite per Astronomia X, "Beppo" in honor of Giuseppe Occhialini) was launched from Cape Canaveral Base by an Atlas G-Centaur on April 30 1996 at 4:31 GMT, into a circular equatorial orbit of 3.9 deg inclination and 600 km altitude. The scientific payload comprised four Narrow Field Instruments (LECS, MECS, HPGSPC, PDS), one Gamma Ray Burst Monitor, and two Wide Field Cameras; such a payload resulted in a wide spectral coverage, ranging from 0.1 to 300 keV.
IASF Palermo (as IFCAI) played a primary role in the definition, design, realization and scientific responsibility of two telescopes on board BeppoSAX,
namely the HPGSPC (High Pressure Gas Scintillation Proportional Counter) and the MECS (Medium Energy Concentrator/Spectrometer),
this last one in collaboration with the IFCTR Institute (now IASF-Milano).
Moreover, IASF Palermo contributed to the definition of the BeppoSAX data analysis system, and participated to the scientific management of the mission and to the definition of its observing program.
Furthermore, almost all the scientists at IASF Palermo were strongly involved in the scientific analysis of the BeppoSAX observational data and a consistent number of scientific publications has been produced.
As planned, on April 30 2002 at 13:38 GMT, after six years of active life, the BeppoSAX spacecraft has been permanently switched-off, terminating all in-orbit operations.
(for more details about the satellite and the mission, please visit the BeppoSAX Official web Site)
The activity on X-ray astronomy is still continuing with Swift (link), IXO (link), NHXRM (link) and with the reduction and analysis of available data from space missions.
IASF Palermo began its activity in Gamma-ray Astronomy with the participation to international collaborations working on the design of spatial
projects in astrophysics. The following items describe the activity of this period:
Actually IASF Palermo researcher are involved in the missions INTEGRAL, AGILE and Fermi
- the participation to the French-Italian collaboration MI-SA-PA for a balloon campaign from the south of France with on board a sparks chamber for the observation of the Crab Nebula. The research, developed between 1968 and 1975, revealed for the first time pulsed radiation from the Crab pulsar at energies higher than 50 MeV;
- the participation to the ESA mission COS-B based on the use of a sparks chamber on board a satellite.
The Caravan Collaboration managing COS-B, born on 1965, lasted about twenty years.
The activity linked to COS-B produced important scientific results (as the detection of emission above 50 MeV from the Vela pulsar)
and put the base for the acquisition of the scientific and technical knowledges for the development of the following research programs.
To the COS-B activity was also related a radio-astronomy research project that, brought to the discovery, from IFCAI researchers, of the first fast binary pulsar PSR1953+29;
- the participation to the French-Italian experiment FIGARO, a balloon born detector particularly designed for the study of pulsar emission. FIGARO was successfully launched several times from Sicily (with recovery in Spain), and from the base of Charlesville in Australia, for the study of sources in the South hemisphere;
- the participation to the space experiment CGRO.
A group of experimental research for the study of the Cosmic Rays both from earth and from space is active at IASF Palermo.
From 1987 to 1995 IASF Palermo researchers participated to the English-Italian experiment PLASTEX for the earth observation of cosmic-rays from secondary showers produced by the interaction with the atmosphere.
In 1998 the IASFpa activates the program "AirWatch from Space" and is involved in the definition, planning and realization of the
international mission EUSO.
The program "AirWatch from Space" includes also support activities as some balloon born experiment as Baby to measure the background radiation.
(for more details about the satellite and the mission, please visit the BABY)
A group of researcher working in Computer science was present at IFCAI.
They were working on methods suitable for the analysis of astronomy data coming from space experiments with particular attention to data with low statistic and/or of low signal-to-noise ratio. Moreover, a research line for the analysis of images from movies using techniques of advanced calculation on parallel computer was also present.