The research activity at Catania Astrophysical Observatory is going on in the framework of a number of national and international projects and collaborations, the most important of which are:
REM. REM (Rapid Eye Mount) is a small rapid reaction automatic telescope for near-infrared spectroscopy, devoted to the monitoring of the prompt afterglow of -Ray Burst (GRB) events detected by the NASA SWIFT satellite. One of the most important characteristics of this instrument is the fast pointing system which will enable the detection of the GRBs [Zerbi et al., Astronomische Nachrichten, 2001]. In 2004 G. Cutispoto, E. Di Stefano S. Messina, and M. Rodon/'o have continued their long term observational program of open stellar clusters with different ages to study the magnetic activity and the angular momentum evolution of late-type stars.
WSO/UV. Activities related to the implementation of the World Space Observatory/Ultraviolet (WSO/UV) telescope have been continued at Catania Observatory. WSO/UV is a project based on a fully open international collaboration, coordinated by the russian FSA, which is meant to provide advanced observing capabilities in the ultraviolet (UV) range. The WSO/UV telescope(1.7 m), optimized for UV (115 nm to 310 nm), will deliver medium, high-resolution, and long slit low-resolution spectra as well as high-sensitive and high-resolution UV and optical images. Its launch is planned for 2009, and it will be operated, as a ground based telescope, at the Lagrangian point L2 for 5 (+5) years. I. Pagano, member of the WSO/UV Implementation Committee, has continued during this year the coordination of the italian National WSO/UV Working (NWWG) group. Specifically, I. Pagano, as primary investigator of a proposal submitted to ASI for funding the Phase A study of the FGS of WSO/UV - to be performed at industrial level - has represented the Italian Space Agency to the WSO Meeting held at FSA in Moscow on Jun 2004 where a negotiation between ASI and FSA for a bilateral collaboration on the WSO project has been started.
COROT Researchers at Catania Observatory have continued the collaboration with other scientists in Europe for the preparation of the COROT space project. COROT is a space experiment, coordinated by CNES (France) with an ESA participation, dedicated to ultra high precision, wide field, relative stellar photometry, for very long continuous observing runs on the same field of view. Their scientific programs are : 1) search for extrasolar planets, down to erth-size planets, and 2) asteroseismology.
Specifically, G. Cutispoto, S. Messina, and I. Pagano have completed the monitoring of a selection of primary targets for the COROT asteroseismology program with the 91cm SLN telescope of the M.G. Fracastoro site, to evaluate the level of magnetic activity in these stars and their rotation periods by analyzing high resolution spectra (R20,000) in the region of Ca II H & K lines.
S. Messina in collaboration with and P.S. Parihar and B.J. Medhi of Indian Institute of Astrophysics have analysed the spectra collected with the HCT telescope of stellar targets in the asteroseimology and exoplanetary fields of COROT. Spectral classification of about 180 stars was made by using standard spectra.
A.F. Lanza and I. Pagano, and M. Rodonó continued their studies to address the influence of stellar activity on the detection of planetary transits (LRP 2004). Results has been discussed during the COROT Week No. 6 in Orsay-Paris, 3-6 2003, and the COROT Week No. 5 in Berlin, 10-13 Dec 2003.
NUVA Network I. Pagano has starting her activity in the Board of the Network for Ultraviolet Astrophisca (NUVA). NUVA (http://www.ucm.es/info/nuva/mipag.php?idllamador=0) has been established within the OPTical Infrared COordination network for Astronomy (OPTICON <http://www.astro-opticon.org/>), which is financed by the European Union via the Framework VI program. The objectives of NUVA are to formulate and operate a UV astronomy network and to plan and execute a road mapping exercise. During the first 18 months after the Kick-off meeting, held in Madrid, on 21 - 24 September 2004, NUVA activity will be concentrated on a critical assessment of the publicly available information in various archives and on an exploratory analysis to define the scientific requirements for the future. This is a completely open field since no in depth review has ever been made in a broad European context. I. Pagano has the responsabilities for the fields: a) UV science of the late type stars, b) coordination of with High-Energy Astrophysics . Network for Ultra-Violet Astrophysics (NUVA) In collaboration with the NUVA chair, A.I. Gomez de Castro (Univ. Madrid, Spain) and J.L. Linsky (JILA, Univ. of Colorado, USA), I. Pagano has organized a Splinter session on the The relevance and future of the ultraviolet range during the 13th Cambridge Workshop on Cool Stars, Stellar Systems and the Sun held in Hamburg on 3-8 Jul 2004 (GPL).
RATS The RATS (RAdial velocity and Transit Search) project is a collaboration among the INAF sections of Catania, Napoli, Padova and Palermo, the Physics and Astronomy Departments of Padua University and ESA whose main goal is the discovery of giant planets transiting solar type stars. The project will have a duration of five years during which the detection of at least 10 new extrasolar planets is expected. Another important goal of the project is to test the strategy of observation, data reduction and archiving of the Eddington ESA mission. During 2004 the researcher of the COLD group have worked on the design of the CCD camera and on the integration of the CCD to it.
GAIA space mission. GAIA (http://astro.estec.esa.nl/GAIA/) has been selected as a forthcoming ESA Cornerstone mission and it is designed to obtain extremely precise astrometry (in the micro-arcsec regime), multi-band photometry and medium/high resolution spectroscopy for a large sample of stars. In particular, GAIA spectroscopy will be obtained over the 8480-8750 Å wavelength range, centered on the near-IR CaII triplet and the head of the Paschen series, where also abundant FeI, SiI, MgI, NI and TiI lines cluster. The spectral resolution is currently foreseen to be around 20,000.
X-SHOOTER. X-SHOOTER is a high-efficiency medium resolution spectrograph which will allow simultaneous coverage of the whole spectral range from the UV (300 nm) to the near IR (1.9 micron). The instrument consists of three separate spectrograph arms for the UV-Blue, Visual-Red, and near-IR part of the spectrum with a resolution of about 10,000. X-SHOOTER will be built by an European consortium comprising ESO, Denmark, Netherlands and Italy. Within the Work Package on Detector systems, the Catania group, due to its recognized expertise in the area of detectors and associated electronics will cooperate with ESO in the characterization of the optical detector systems.
SoHO/UVCS and SHARP Spadaro and Ventura continued their involvement in the SoHO/UVCS project as witnessed by the work described in Sect. 1.1.1. Moreover, Spadaro has been recently appointed Responsible for the scientific coordination of the space experiment SPECTRE (i.e., Spectroheliograph for the Transition Region, the P.I. of which is E. Antonucci from INAF-Turin Observatory) a segment of the Solar and Heliospheric Activity Research and Prediction Program (SHARPP) having as P. I. R. Howard from Naval Research Laboratory - Washington. SHARP is a NASA mission developed in the framework of the program "Living with a star" and is to be launched in 2007. The experiment SPECTRE is a contribution from the Italian solar physics community and it is devoted to the study of the solar transition region, the interface separating the solar chromosphere from the corona from which most of the solar EUV emission is originated and the site of remarkable dynamic phenomena affecting the outer atmosphere of the Sun. In addition to Spadaro, also the other solar physicists of Catania Observatory and University are getting involved in the project.