Historical Notes: Basovizza Observing Station


During the 20th Century, for about three decades since the 30’s, a number of Astronomical Observatories in Italy faced the increasing problem of luminous pollution caused by urban settlements and planned observing stations in areas far from towns. The attempt of Giuseppe Favaro,  director of the Astronomical Observatory of Trieste from 1933 to 1947, to build an observing station was unsuccessful. Only law n. 1073 of 24 July 1962 could make adequate resources available, with the assignment of conspicuous three-year funding for educational and University building construction. In 1963 Margherita Hack, at that time the new Observatory director, could acquire 3 hectares of land from the Region Friuli Venezia Giulia in the area of Basovizza and in 1966 started the construction of the first buildings.


The first two buildings were designed to host the 30cm Cassegrain  telescope and the 50cm Newton reflecting  telescope from the Sarti workshop in Bologna. Then followed the construction of the dihedral solar interferometer with a 73m basis, and of the main building which hosted workshops, laboratories, the caretaker’s home, offices, and 4 rooms for guests presently used as storage areas.


At the beginning of 1969 the new 10m diameter equatorial mounting parabolic antenna designed by professor Alberto Abrami and funded by USAF entered into operation and in 1971 the 1m diameter Cassegrain telescope designed by professor Bruno Cester was installed inside a large dome built for the purpose in the southern part of the Observing Station area. During the ‘70s the 1m telescope was equipped with a computer-controlled double beam photometer, and a computer system for the registration and processing of data of solar radio observations entered into operation.


In those years instruments for the detection of  radio emissions from celestial bodies and in particular from the Sun were installed. The first dihedral antenna for radio observations dates from 1967,  while two years later the 10m parabolic antenna was mounted, and later in 1970 an interferometer with a basis of  73m at 408 MHz entered into operation. Maintenance and improvement of the instruments were carried out by the fully-equipped workshop and by the optics and electronic laboratories.


In the last fifteen years of the 20th Century the sky conditions were getting increasingly  worse due to light pollution and made impossible to continue research in the field of optical observations. The main dome became the centre of educational and public outreach activities with the Zeiss 50 cm Newton reflecting telescope and the Observatory historical exhibition. The dome was named Urania Carsica (Nymph Urania) and hosted more than 20,000 visitors and several filming sessions for tv broadcasting from 1998 to 2009 when it was closed due to major structural damage.


At Basovizza Observing Station radio astronomical observations developed into Space Weather research, and at the same time lively educational and outreach activities continued to be carried out since 2005 with the aid of a remote controlled telescope located in the smaller dome, called SVAS (Stars go to School), of a computer classroom called Esploracosmo (Explore the Cosmos) and, more recently, with the use of new small-size new generation telescopes installed in the medium-size dome after outfitting works.


In the same years, a new building was added to the premises. It presently hosts offices and archives of outreach and educational activities, the solar radio physics and space meteorology group and a section of the advanced technology and instrumentation group.