Virtual telescope Bellatrix Observatory


The author: Gianluca Masi


    I observe from Ceccano (FR, Italy), 90 km south of Rome. I graduaded with full marks in Physics (Astrophysical address) at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" and I earned a PhD in Astronomy at the University of Rome "Tor Vergata". My interest in astronomy started in 1980, when I was 8 years old: I read a book titled "La Conquista del Cielo" ("The Conquest of the Sky"), by G. Ruggieri. I was definitely captured by the images of nebulae and galaxies. In 1983 I received my first telescope, a 6cm refractor. using it, I managed to observe the Moon, the Sun, a few double stars and the Great Nebula in Orion.

    In 1985 I bought a new telescope, still working: a Vixen 150mm-f/5 reflector with computerized equatorial mount: with it, I observed tons of deep-sky objects, especially galaxies and star clusters. Few years later I started doing astrophotography and after the first attempts the technique was good enough to have some pictures hosted by national magazines and newspapers. On Aug. 4, 1989 I was the first in Italy to spot the desappearance of one of the Jupiter's equatorial bands.

    As for my scientific interests, I started studing the cosmological distance ladder issues and the determination of the Hubble Constant; then, Iswitched to searching strategies for the near-Earth Objects (NEOs), with special attention for those having their orbits entirely inside that of our planet (inner-Earth objects, IEOs): for these activities I was involved in the CINEOS project (at the Astronomical Observatory of Campo Imperatore). Since 1988 I'm a very active member of the staff of the Astronomical Observatory of Campo Catino. During my PhD, I worked for several months at the European Southern Observatory (ESO), Chile, where I performed photometric and astrometric observations of NEOs and comets from La Silla. My current scientific activities include minor bodies in our Solar System (comets and asteroids, especially NEO), variable stars (mainly cataclysmic) and exoplanets.

       Since 1992 I'm member of the Ulysses Comet Watch Network. From the same period I started my interest for a new topic: the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) technology and its use in astronomy. One of the most intense periods of my astronomical life has been the passage of comet Hale-Bopp, which was followed for several months, especially when it was particularly bright. I collected more than 500 images using a SBIG SBIG ST-7 together with my 15cm telescope. I was involved in the "Small Telescope Science Program", managed by the team of the space mission Deep Impact ( NASA, JPL, Ball Corporation).

Masi al vlt   On 1 Aug. 1997 I discovered my first variable star, close to the famous "Dumb-bell" (M27) nebula. I do astrometric observations of minor planets and comets (with data sent to the Minor Planet Center) and I discovered the asteroids 1998 DA, 1998 TL7, 1999 CN10, 1999 CL12, 1999 NC1, 1999 PK, 1999QV1, 1999 RA, 1999 RN, 1999 RS2, 1999 RL35, 1999 TN4, 1999 TZ10 e 2000 YJ8; sono co-scopritore di 1998 SY2, 1999 RQ32, 1999 RC34, 1999 RR34, 1999 TO, 1999 TP, 1999 TQ, 1999 XS38, 1999 XT38, 1999 XE104, 1999 XF104, 2002 NJ34, 2002 OQ7, 2007 EE88 . On the Feb. 1998 issue of the famous "Sky & Telescope" magazine, there was a paper of mine showing how to use CCD cameras under light polluted skies. I'm a member of the 'American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) and of the VSNET collaboration Team, coordinated by the Astronomy Department of Kyoto University. I observe cataclysmic variable stars (the Observatory being the Italian station of the Center for Backyard Astrophysics - coordinated by the Columbia University, NY) and supernovae (observations published on the 'International Astronomical Union Circulars). On 2004, I discovered a few new variable stars close to M78. I'm codiscoverer of two exoplanets, XO-2b and XO-3b.

   The increase in the observing activities was possible thanks to the availability of a C11 OTA, and now I work with C14 OTA on paramount ME robotic mount, remotely controllable via the Internet. The learn more about this and other available telescopes, visit the observatiry page.

      The public activity has been very intensive, too. I gave several conferences on different astronomical topics, very often motivated by special events. Since Sept. 2004 I collaborate with the Planetarium of Rome and since Jan. 2006 I'm curator of the Planetarium. Since June 2008 I'm vice-director of Coelum Astronomia magazine and Director of the Coelum Stream project.

    On 21 Jun. 2003 the Pro-Loco of Ceccano awarded me with the "Premio Pro-Loco 2003" prize; the event included a conference where I showed some astronomical images I grabbed in Chile, during my stay in La Silla. On 13 Sep. 2003 I received the Ruggieri prize by the 'Unione Astrofili Italiani. On 10 Oct. 2003 I was awarded with the prize "La Ciociara". On Aug.2005 the Planetary Society awarded me with the "Shoemaker NEO Grant".On 7 Dec. 2005 I won the competion "Concorso per il Miglior Seminario di Dottorato" ("Best Phd Seminar"), organized by the three Universities of Rome. On May 2006 I won the Tacchini Prize of the "Società Astronomica Italiana", for one of the five best PhD thesis in Astronomy in 2006.

    The asteroid (21795) is named "Masi" after me, acknowledging my astronomical researches and activities.

   NASA did an Internet website to introduce children to space science, considering my case as the example of a young, very active observer.

    I love classical music, especially Bach, Brahms and Mahler. I find of great interest the history of these great composers and see how some of their masterpieces were ispired by the skies.

   The Virtual Telescope is my last effort: its goal is to offer a chance to look at the Universe, even to those without an advanced instrument, both for science and fun. I wish to thank Software Bisque and santa Barbara Instrument Group for supporting my scientific activities.

    Publications (this link does not include publications on popular magazines/newspaper); contributes on web (Google).

Gianluca Masi.