Astronomy in Italy has an ancient and important history dating back to the mists of time, when the first Etruscan and Roman civilizations apparently built towers and observation points to study the movements of celestial bodies, because, as it was already, ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and Sumerians proved that this practice was Very useful especially in the field of agriculture.
But in the Middle Ages, astronomy was especially developed in monastic schools and universities, where the geocentric theory of Aristotle and Ptolemy was studied, a wonderful example, to which a special article should be devoted, “Hidden” astronomy by the great Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy, An indication that knowledge at that time was very important and advanced.
Without wanting to bother with the staggering censorship caused by the Church’s Inquisition, in the Renaissance, Italian astronomy reached a level of excellence thanks to the works of Nicholas CopernicusAnd Tycho BraheAnd Johannes Kepler And Galileo GalileiThe latter is considered the father of modern science. Galileo, as we know, was actually the first to use a “telescope” to observe the sky when, after creating an instrument of war, he had the intuition to turn it skyward, thus discovering Jupiter’s moons, sunspots, and the nature of comets, as well as paving the way for modern astronomy.
Modern and contemporary astronomy
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Italian astronomy continued to flourish, thanks to the works of John Dominic Cassiniwho was the first to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun, and Joseph PiazziWho discovered the asteroid Ceres. However, in the nineteenth century, Italian astronomers focused above all on measuring stellar coordinates and cataloging stars, thanks to the work of Father Angelo Secchi And Giovanni Battista Donati.
In the twentieth century, Italian astronomy has made important advances thanks to the Italian participation in many international projects, such as the Hubble Space Telescope or the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and the creation of technologies and telescopes that are now installed in the darkest places of the Earth and which are all Italian pride.
However, it must be remembered that in the twentieth century, and especially after the war, important astronomical research centers were born in Italy, including the Astronomical Observatory of Brera, the Astrophysical Observatory of Arte, the Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, the Astrophysical Observatory of Catania, the Astrophysical Observatory of Asiago which relies on On the Padua Observatory where the telescope with our largest mirror is installed in Italy, while the largest Italian telescope, the famous TNG which stands for Galileo National Telescope, is installed in the Canary Islands and has a mirror of 3.58 meters. These important observatories, together with other small but no less important observatories, make up the network that he now ownsNational Institute of Astrophysics (INAF)the main research body that brings together all professional Italian astronomers and that carries out important national and international research projects.
The big role of amateur astronomers
However, we cannot fail to consider that in Italy astronomy continues to flourish also thanks to the existence of many amateur astronomy societies, which willingly practice teaching and publishing and dedicate themselves with commitment and passion, on a par with professionals, to research in the sciences in the various fields of astronomy. The results are often unusual also on the international scene. It would not be wrong to say that Italy can boast some of the best amateur astronomers in the world and actively cooperates with professionals.
Amateur astronomy societies and amateur astronomers often operate several public or small private astronomical observatories that are open to the public and these observatories are often located in rural or mountainous areas, far from city lights, where the night sky is darker and free of light pollution.
Among these observatories more or less scattered throughout the national territory we find eg Liliu Astronomical Park, located in the municipality of Saveli in the province of Crotone at an altitude of 1200 meters in the so-called Sella Crotone. The observatory houses a 50 cm reflecting telescope and regularly organizes public activities, guided tours and educational visits to schools. And in the winter months, the Lelio Astronomical Park telescope participates in search campaigns for asteroids, comets, supernovae and exoplanets and in project collaborations with the Department of Physics of the University of Calabria and INAF.
Another example, moving north isMount Pistoia Observatory It is an observatory located at an altitude of 1000 meters in the municipality of San Marcello Pettiglio, in Tuscany, built in the 1990s and now managed by the Gruppo Astrofili della Montagna Pistoiese. It is one of the most active observatories in Italy for the search for asteroids and each year produces hundreds of publications, confirmations and discoveries thanks to the excellent amateur astronomers who work there. The observatory has two domes with two telescopes, one is 60 cm and the other is smaller, 40 cm. Public observation evenings, guided tours and educational activities for schools, as well as important conferences on scientific topics are also organized here.
These are only two examples of what we can find in Italy, but there are dozens of excellent facts like this and they are all doing an excellent job all over the country, so it can certainly be said that small astronomical observatories represent an essential resource for spreading astronomical knowledge among the public, especially among young people. Certainly, thanks to the activities of amateur astronomers, people can learn to appreciate the wonders of the night sky and discover the importance of astronomy for understanding the universe and our place in it. Moreover, these observatories can also play an important role in protecting the night sky, educating the public and the territory about light pollution and promoting the fight against this phenomenon, which we will certainly discuss in an upcoming article.
Astronomy for sure, as wisely written leopards, which is the most complete of the physical sciences, in fact no other discipline includes in itself physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology. In fact, the practice of astronomy means talking about all the known sciences, and perhaps that is why more and more young people are interested in it but unfortunately for them, the teaching of this discipline in Italian schools is today limited to no more than a few hours of a science program or earth sciences , but when young people talk about astronomy, they are fascinated and amazed at what is the greatest spectacle in the universe, but fortunately, there are also some realities in Italy that allow young people to develop their talents and skills. Passion for astronomy in parallel with school subjects.
Astronomy is certainly not only the science of the past and the present, but the science that, thanks to technological progress, will be the champion of the future and some teachers and some schools have understood this, in fact it is not uncommon to find schools that equip themselves, thanks to European funds, astronomical devices and many Teachers have the intuition to explain classical and ‘difficult’ physics using accurate examples of astronomical phenomena thus registering a significant increase in students’ understanding and interest.
In recent decades, astronomy has made great strides in understanding the universe around us, and Italy is at the forefront of this sector. Through the use of advanced technologies, such as telescopes and satellites, we have discovered new, distant planets, stars, and galaxies, opening the door to new questions and challenges that require new technologies to elucidate. But it’s not just scientific discoveries that make astronomy so exciting. Astronomy shows us the beauty and immensity of the universe, reminds us of our unique position in the infinite universe and connects us with the universe itself. Looking up at the night sky, it’s true, we feel small and insignificant, but at the same time part of something much larger than ourselves, which Stephen Hawking called the “grand design.”
Astronomy teaches us humility, curiosity, and perseverance. We are driven by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for exploration. Astronomy reminds us that discovery has no end and that there is always more to learn, discover and understand.
In an increasingly polarized and divided world, astronomy unites us as a species. No matter our nationality, religion, or culture, the night sky exists for all of us, and it is a universal experience we can share.
Ultimately, astronomy is much more than a science, it is a philosophy, passion, and worldview. It invites us to look beyond the confines of our little Earth and discover the wonders of the universe that surrounds us. And in this discovery we find beauty, charm and passion that fill our hearts and souls.
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