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In the same section :
Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (English version)
Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (English version)
Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (version française)
Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (version française)
Laboratoire d’Astrophysique Universitaire de Nice (version française)

Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory (English version)
Wednesday 24 March 2004, by Franco Lisi

The Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory is located just outside the center of Florence (Italy), on the same hill where Galileo Galilei spent, in forced exile, the last 11 years of his life. Its inauguration in 1872 was meant also as a Memorial to celebrate this great tradition.

During the twenties, the Arcetri Observatory changed its qualification from “astronomical” (i.e. mainly oriented to positional astronomy) to “astrophysical”, in order to mark the then emerging interest in the physical interpretation of the celestial phenomena. The first astrophysical field to be explored was that of Solar physics, in which Arcetri won a pre-eminent position.

More recently, while maintaining the Solar physics activities, the Observatory has greatly increased in number and scope its lines of reasearch. At present, Arcetri hosts about seventy scientists, postdocs and graduate students active - in a broad context of international collaborations - in various areas of modern astrophysics. Particular emphasis is given to theoretical and observational studies related to:

- Solar Physics.
- Star formation and the study of the interstellar medium.
- Active Galactic Nuclei and the Early Evolution of Galaxies.
- High Energy and Particle Astrophysics.

Furthermore, the Observatory hosts a group of researchers and technicians dealing with the construction of the Large Binocular Telescope, with the development of high angular resolution techniques (adaptive optics, interferometry), and with near infrared instrumentation (cameras and spectrometers like Nics, Amber, and Giano). Other groups are involved with radioastronomical and solar technological projects.

The hill of Arcetri is also the site of the Astronomy Department of the University of Florence, and of a section of the Institute of Radio Astronomy of the National Council of Research. A very close collaboration exists among these Institutions and the Observatory. Every year, the Arcetri Observatory hosts a large number of visitors from Italy and from abroad and organizes workshops and scientific meetings.

Since 2001 the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory is part of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), following a general re-organization of the Italian astronomical research (


Largo Enrico Fermi, 5
50125 Firenze

Tel. ++39 055 2752312
Fax  ++39 055 220039
Web site:

Involvement in the AMBER instrument

The Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory (which is part of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, INAF) contributed to the AMBER project by providing the cold spectrograph. On the optical bench where AMBER is mounted, the spectrograph is easily spotted through the many cables and tubes, as a big black box about 1 meter high. The spectrograph is a gas-tight dewar weighting about 250 kg; the internal pressure is kept very low (a pump sucks away all the gas) and the temperature is about -200 degrees centigrade (a vessel full of liquid nitrogen cools all the inside). A set of complex cold optics mounted on a sturdy optical bench separates the light which gets into this dewar in different colors and sends the light beams to the detector mounted in a different dewar.

The Arcetri staff conceived the entire spectrograph, along with the interface to the rest of AMBER, and designed it with the help of an external consulting firm. The design process made use of the long experience gained during the development and the astronomical use of several instruments for the infrared bands (Arnica, Nics). The mechanical parts have been machined in Italy and assembled in the laboratory of the Arcetri Observatory. The optical design was made from the scratch by the Arcetri staff, having in mind the harsh conditions where the optics must work. The optics are mainly metallic mirrors, machined with great skill by the Officine Galileo (a division of Alenia-Finmeccanica). The optical alignment took several weeks, but the final performance of the optics were measured to be much better than the needs of the AMBER project. The Arcetri staff followed also the process of integration of the spectrograph to AMBER during several weeks of work at LAOG and the final integration at Paranal, after the shipment to Chile.

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