Physics of Galaxies M. Capaccioli
If astronomy is the oldest among natural sciences, physics of galaxies perhaps is the most recent. It started in 1926 when Edwin P. Hubble verified some nebulae to be stellar systems comparable to the Milky Way: islands of matter in a boundless space that he himself discovered to be expanding. Since then astronomers, backed by advances in the technology of observations both from ground and from space, have piled up data to disentangle the variety of forms and phenomena filling the deep sky up to the cosmic horizon. The ultimate aim of this new branch of astrophysics, often named extragalactic astronomy, is to understand how and when galaxies of the various types and sizes are born and how they evolve due to aging as well as to interactions with the environment. Historically galaxies were first classified on the basis of their appearance. Then astronomers undertook the mapping of the distribution of light, assumed to be the tracer of the underlying distribution of matter. Spectroscopy helped modelling the way in which each galactic edifice fights against its own gravity: investigations often made difficult by challenging obstacles as the gauging of cosmic distances. New ingredients were then discovered, such as blacks supermassive holes, halos of hot gas and dark matter. The paradigm of the first studies was “equilibrium”: a view imposed by the relative novelty of the subject and of the involved phenomenology, supported by the confidence that overall changes are extremely slow. Finally astronomers started taking into consideration the concept of feedback which may introduce discontinuities in the game of evolution. The course is about these discoveries and about the physical models interpreting them.
Prof. Massimo Capaccioli
He worked as professor of astronomy at the University of Naples Federico II.
Former director of the Capodimonte Astronomical Observatory, Capaccioli has been president of the Italian Astronomical Society and of the National Society of Sciences, Letters, and Arts in Naples. His scientific interests range from the dynamics and evolution of stellar systems to observational cosmology. His main achievements regard the nature and properties of elliptical galaxies, the cosmic distance scale and the abundance of dark matter.
Author of over 400 scientific papers and of some books, he has conceived and managed, in synergy with the European Southern Observatory, the realization of VST, the largest optical wide-field telescope worldwide, now operating from the Chilean Andes. A freelance journalist, he is interested in history of science and epistemology and in the dissemination of the scientific culture in the Mediterranean area.
Commander of the Republic for scientific merits, he has received honors and awards, including a Honorary Professorship from the Moscow State University Lomonosov in 2010.
He is currently serving in the Council of the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).