International workshop in honor of Dr. Michele Bianda, 14-15 October 2022

High-Precision Solar Polarimetry (HPSP): International workshop in honor of Dr. Michele Bianda, October 14-15, 2022, Locarno, Switzerland

High-precision solar polarimetry has been for several decades the main research focus of IRSOL Istituto Ricerche Solari “Aldo e Cele Daccò”, Locarno, Switzerland. Advanced experimental and theoretical approaches developed at IRSOL revealed the importance of turbulent magnetic fields for the overall magnetic energy budget of the Sun. Many puzzles of the solar “hidden magnetism” were solved at IRSOL.

Dr. Michele Bianda was leading IRSOL for 35 years – since its founding in 1987. He started as a single employee of the new institute’s foundation FIRSOL, recovered the telescope and obtained first scientific observations in 1991. From 1995, he initiated a very successful long-term collaboration with Prof. Dr. Jan Stenflo and his group at the ETH Zurich, which lasted until Stenflo’s retirement in 2008. Their joint research in high-precision solar spectropolarimetry and many discoveries in solar polarization and magnetism made with the Zurich Imaging Polarimeter (ZIMPOL) were well documented in Dr. Bianda’s PhD thesis, as well as in the Second Solar Spectrum Atlas recorded in part at IRSOL and many theses and papers of PhD students and researchers world-wide. Since 2008 ZIMPOL is based at IRSOL and after several upgrades is still leading in high-precision and high-accuracy measurements of solar polarization down to at least ten parts per million allowing for discoveries of new phenomena in solar magnetism. Thanks to his perseverance and enormous dedication, Dr. Bianda secured support from the FIRSOL foundation and many colleagues who brought IRSOL to the heights of today, with a cohort of senior and young researchers advancing our knowledge about solar magnetic fields. While overcoming multiple challenges with funding, IRSOL achieved a recognition as a scientific infrastructure of a significant national importance and was recently affiliated with the Università della Swizzera italiana (USI). The international standing of IRSOL is on the rise too, thanks to the world-wide collaborations established by Dr. Bianda.

This workshop is dedicated to the research in high-precision solar spectropolarimetry initiated and further developed by Dr. Bianda and his collaborators, including the highlights of his research on the Hanle effect in chromospheric lines and impact polarization in solar flares. We will celebrate his scientific career and institutional leadership with the colleagues who have contributed to this research and IRSOL’s development.

The workshop will take place in Sala del Consiglio Comunale, Piazza Grande 18, Locarno, Switzerland, on October 14-15, 2022. Registration for the workshop is open on the dedicated webpage: https://www.irsol.usi.ch/hpsp22/. The deadline for the registration is September 1, 2022.

Svetlana Berdyugina appointed new Director of IRSOL

Prof. Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina has been appointed as Scientific Director of IRSOL Istituto Ricerche Solari “Aldo e Cele Daccò” in Locarno and affiliate Professor at the USI Faculty of Informatics in Lugano, Switzerland. “I am looking very much forward to re-engaging myself within the Swiss scientific community and exploring new synergies in Ticino”, she says. She will succeed Michele Bianda who led IRSOL for almost 35 years.

The Foundation IRSOL (FIRSOL) has unanimously appointed Prof. Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina as Scientific Director of IRSOL Istituto Ricerche Solari “Aldo e Cele Daccò” in Locarno starting from May 1, 2022. In coordination with this appointment, the USI rectorate has offered Prof. Berdyugina also an adjunct professorship at the Faculty of Informatics, where IRSOL is affiliated as a research institution.

Prof. Berdyugina will succeed Dr. Michele Bianda who led IRSOL for almost 35 years, since the institute was officially acquired by the foundation FIRSOL, and who by now reached the retirement age. Under his leadership the IRSOL telescope and instrumentation were upgraded and further developed in a close collaboration with the Institute for Astronomy at ETH Zurich, directed by Prof. Dr. Jan Stenflo until his retirement in 2007. This collaboration brought IRSOL to a forefront in the field of solar spectropolarimetry as a key developer and the homebase of the most precise imaging polarimeter ZIMPOL. In 2012, IRSOL was recognized as a research facility of national importance which allowed hiring prominent scientists with long-term prospects as well as postdocs and PhD students on several competitive funds. Following this success, IRSOL was first in 2015 associated and then in 2021 affiliated with USI.

IRSOL research is focused on solar magnetism and is based on the development of theoretical models, numerical simulations, instrumentation and observations. The latter make use of state-of-the-art instrumentation for high precision polarization measurements and in particular the ZIMPOL polarimeter, which is developed and maintained in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI). The measurements are carried out in Locarno as well as in dedicated campaigns at the Europe’s largest telescope GREGOR in collaboration with the Leibniz-Institut für Sonnenphysik (KIS). Based on this experience, IRSOL has contributed the polarimetric unit to the first-generation instrument VTF for the world-largest solar telescope DKIST (USA) and participates in the European Solar Telescope (EST) project which aims to develop a next generation European 4m-class solar telescope by a broad European consortium

Prof. Berdyugina is well known for her interdisciplinary research in solar physics, astrophysics and astrobiology using a rarely utilized property of the light – polarization. While employing quantum effects in molecules, magnetic fields and radiation, she pioneered and established several innovative research lines to study magnetism of the Sun, distant stars and relativistic stellar remnants, as well as planets outside the Solar system (exoplanets) and signatures of extraterrestrial life and civilizations which might be detected on Earth-like exoplanets. As a graduate and PhD of the Faculty for Mathematics and Mechanics of the St.-Petersburg State University, she applies various numerical approaches in her research, with a focus on solving inverse problems, allowing us to “see” hidden phenomena in the Universe.

Among her prestigious appointments are Professorship at the Federal Institute for Technology ETH Zurich, as a winner of the European Young Investigator (EURYI) Award of the European Science Foundation (ESF) with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Professorship at the University of Oulu, Academy Investigator of the Academy of Finland, and NASA Astrobiology Institute Research Fellow at the University of Hawai’i. She is also a winner of a highly competitive European Research Council (ERC) Advance Grant. Currently, she holds a full professorship at the University of Freiburg and is the managing director of the Leibniz-Institut für Sonnenphysik (KIS) in Freiburg in Breisgau, which she will continue along with her new appointments at IRSOL and USI.

Additional info

Thanks to her vast expertise in research and scientific management, Prof. Berdyugina has served on many international panels and commissions in Europe and beyond, among others as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the European Solar Telescope (EST), Vice-Chair of the Observational Programmes Committee at the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and as a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Space Science Institute (ISSI, Bern), Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) in Germany, Prize Jury of the Leibniz Association (Germany), Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA, USA), and others.

Her creative nature takes over the right side of her brain as well. She continuously expands her solar, stellar, terrestrial and extraterrestrial vision through her colorful paintings. She is excited about this fusion of science and art that leads her to new discoveries. She is also passionate about sharing her knowledge with her colleagues, students, young scientists and public, and she was invited to speak about her research and vision at TEDxMaui, Urania Berlin, UNESCO Night of Philosophy in Paris, Euronews, etc.

IRSOL changes its name

IRSOL Istituto Ricerche Solari “Aldo e Cele Daccò” is the new name of the research institute in solar physics in Locarno affiliated with the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI). The change was decided by the board of the Foundation Istituto Ricerche Solari Locarno (FIRSOL) at its meeting on April 5, 2022, to honor the memory of the benefactors Aldo and Cele Daccò, who decided to allocate to the institute a generous bequest, which will contribute to the further development of its research activities. These are mainly focused on studying solar magnetism and its evolution. Solar magnetic activity has a direct impact on Earth through the solar wind and magnetic storms.  Besides creating spectacular polar auroras, the storms can generate significant disturbances to radio telecommunications, as well as large-scale damages to space infrastructures and ground-based electricity distribution networks. The solar studies allow for improving the prediction of such events and help to mitigate their effects through the adoption of countermeasures. The solar activity is also an important contributor to the amount of energy radiated by the Sun and therefore is of interest for climate studies.  

The IRSOL research is based on the development of theoretical models, numerical simulations, instrumentation and observations. The latter make use of high-precision instrumentation for polarization measurements and in particular the ZIMPOL polarimeter, which is developed and maintained in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI). The measurements are carried out using the own observatory in Locarno and in dedicated campaigns at the Europe’s largest telescope GREGOR in collaboration with the Leibniz-Institut für Sonnenphysik (KIS). Based on this experience, IRSOL has contributed the polarimetric unit to the first-generation instrument VTF for the world-largest solar telescope DKIST (USA) and participates in the European Solar Telescope (EST) project which aims to develop a next generation European 4m-class solar telescope by a broad European consortium 

The IRSOL, recognized as a research facility of national importance, receives financial contributions from the Swiss Confederation, the Canton Ticino and the urban municipalities of Locarno. Several ongoing projects are financed by competitive funds such as the Swiss National Science Foundation and European Union funds.  

Obituary: Sergio Cortesi

Sergio Cortesi left us. Doyen of professional and amateur astronomy in Ticino, former director of the Specola Solare Ticinese, with 64 years of activity in the Sunspot observations, among the founders and then long-time president of the Società Astronomica Ticinese, Sergio Cortesi is no longer with us. We will miss him very much.