tips and tricks in and around the stars

OccultIno: a simple device for occultations timing


A common problem in astronomical observations is the precise time tagging of CCD images. This is especially true in the case of stellar occultations by Solar System bodies, requiring reliable, absolute timing of high accuracy.
Occultation observers, needing highly sensitive cameras capable of short exposures, have been mostly using analog cameras up to know, coupled to timing devices capable of producing an image overlay indicating the epoch at the time each frame was acquired.

2016 01 14 14.14.56


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Born in Saluzzo (Italy) in 1966. Italian.

Position: Astronomer (senior)


2014, Sept. 18: Habilitation à Diriger de Recherches, Ecole Doctorale en Sciences Fondamentales et Appliquées – Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis.
1995 :PhD in Geophysics (Universities of Genova, Turin, Modena - Italy). PHD dissertation on the subject:“Dynamics of transport and chaotic advection in geophysical flows”.
1992 : Laurea (master thesis) in Physics at the University of Turin (Italy).

Previous positions

9/2003 - 2014 : Adjoint Astronomer at the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur (Nice).
2/2001 - 8/2003 : Post-doctoral position at the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur (Nice).
7/2000-12/2000 : Associate Astronomer at Institute Institut de Mécanique Céleste et Calcul des Ephémérides.
7/1996 - 1/2001:Engineer at the Observatory of Turin, Italy. Collaboration with the
Planetology research group (coordinator: V. Zappalà).
11/1993 - 4/1994 Fellowship at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique of CNRS.

Research interests

Space mission: Gaia (ESA)

Solar System objects; Deputy Manager of the Coordination Unit 4 of the Data Processing and Analysis ConsortiumSimulations of Solar System object detection for the validation of the data processing chain.
Contribution to the Ground-based Observations for Gaia (GBOG) and the ground-based Optical spacecraft Tracking (GBOT) groups.
Observations from the ground complementary to Gaia (alert follow up network for Solar System objects “Gaia-FUN-SSO”, asteroid spectroscopy).
Preparation of the scientific exploitation: coordinator of the G.E.A.R. project (H2020-COMPET-5 call) “Gaia: European Excellence in Asteroid Research”.

Physical properties of Solar System objects

Collisional evolution of asteroids: numerical simulations of the evolution of shapes, and the origin of satellites.
Observations for physical characterization: interferometry (first measurements of asteroids obtained by Hubble Space Telescope and the FGS instrument), NIR spectroscopy, photometry, polarimetry and stellar occultations.

Stellar occultations

By asteroids: to measure them, and obtain shape details. A promising method thanks to the precise astrometry of stars and asteroids that Gaia will obtain
By TNOs: the only method for having a precise size/shape and hints of atmospheres
By extrasolar planets: coordination of the Venus Twilight Experiment for the solar transit on June 5-6 2012. Characterization of the atmospheres by refraction.

Past research

From dust to planetesimals: inhomogeneous growth: trapping of dust in anticyclonic regions.
Gravitational instability in disks of planetesimals
Chaotic advection in geophysical fluids


  • 2014: Asteroid nomination (9517) Paolotanga
  • 2015: Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques

Invited talks (recent)

American Geophysical Union conference 2015, San Francisco (USA) 13-18 December 2015
Stardust ITN - Local training workshop: Collisions in the Solar system, Belgrade, Serbia, 11-13 February 2015
"Follow-up network for the Solar System Objects III", Paris, France, November 2014
Asteroids, Comets, and Meteorites (ACM 2014), Helsinki, July 2014
GREAT (Gaia Research for European Astronomy Training, EU/FP7 network) symposium, July 2013, Turku
"Follow-up network for the Solar System Objects II", Paris, France, September 2012
Astrometry now and in the future, Antalya, Turkey, September 2011
"Follow-up network for the Solar System Objects", Paris, France, November 2010
“Gaia at the frontiers of astrometry”, ELSA conference, Paris, June 2010
Photometric Alert Network for Gaia, 1st workshop, Cambridge, UK, June 2010
"Fresnel imagers" conference, Nice, June 2009
Société Astronomique de France - symposium, Paris, June 2008
"Mutual events of the Uranian satellites" conference, Paris, October 2008
International ELSA school, Leiden, The Netherlands, November 2007
Gaia Symposium, Meudon, May 2004

Didactic activity

Master level course "Physics of Protoplanetary Disks" at the University of Nice/Sophia Antipolis, master program “OMEGA”
Master level course "the Gaia mission" at the University of Nice/Sophia Antipolis, master program “IMAG2E”
Post-doc responsibility

F. Spoto “Asteroid satellites by Gaia” CNES fellowship 2016-2016.
J. Hanuš (with M. Delbo’, CNES fellowship, 2015-2016): The “treasure gems” of the asteroid belt: physical characterization of the asteroids candidate for mass determination by Gaia.
Gayon-Markt (CNES fellowship, 2010-2011)
M. Delbo' (ESA external fellowship + Poincaré fellowship 2006-2008, now CNRS CR1)

PhD students
C. Comito (2009-2011), M. Devogele (2013 - 2016), Ch. Père (2014 - 2017), J. Ferreira (2017-2020)

Master level students
S. Carollo (2018), N. Fayard (2014), E. Marchese (2010), S. Clouet (2008), A. Capiluppi (2007), R. Fromoltz (2006), C. Comito (2006, 2008), J.F. Consigli (2005), D. Spezia (2000), F. Giacanelli (1998)

International meetings (organization/SOC member)

TherMoPS II - Thermal Models for Planetary Science II, Puerto de la Cruz, Spain, June 3-5, 2015.
"Follow-up network for the Solar System Objects III", Paris, France, November 24-26, 2014
“Asteroid Spectroscopy in support of Gaia”, Nice, 6-7 June 2013
“Solar System science before and after Gaia”, Pisa, Italy, May 4-6 2011
"Follow-up network for the Solar System Objects", Paris, France, November 29 to December 1, 2010
“Numerical modelling of Asteroids as Granular Systems – NuMAGS”, Paris, France, 12-15 January 2009.
“Earth-based support to Gaia Solar System science”, Beaulieu, France, 27-28 October 2008.
“TherMoPS – Thermal Models for Planetary Science”, Beaulieu, France, 15-17 September 2008.
“Mutual Events of the Uranian satellites in 2007-08 and further observations in network”, Paris, France, 15-18 November 2006.
“Ceres 2001 – Astrometry and Physics of Minor Planets from Observational networks”, Paris, France, 9-12 October 2001.
Meetings (each 6 months) of the Gaia Coordination Unit 4, starting from 2006.


Abilitation to Research Direction (HDR) –Sept. 19, 2015

Reviewer for

Astronomy and Astrophysics
Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy
Earth, Moon and Planets
Monthly Notices of the RAS
Planetary and Space Science

Popular Science and Outreach

More than ~100 papers on the Italian popularization astronomy magazine "l'Astronomia"
Book "Osservare i pianeti" ("Observing the planets", with M. Falorni, I Quaderni de l’Astronomia, 1993)
Interview for the movie "D'un monde a l'autre" ("From one world to another")
Interviews for the movie “Our last transit of Venus”
Popularization lectures in France, Italy and USA
“Mars – history of observations and discoveries” exhibition at the town library in Nice, France, April-August 2003

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