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The Sun: our star



Ramelli R.


Belluzzi L.


Pellegri G.

(Project partner)


Throughout history, the Sun has been a source of both mystery and veneration. Its potential for producing light and heat has made it the object of adoration in all civilisations, so much that many of them believed it to be a supreme deity. In ancient Egypt, its name was Râ; the Greeks called him Apollo or Helios; the Aztecs, Huitzilopochtl; and the Chinese, Yang. In honour of the Sun the people of Rhodes erected their Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. The apparent motion of this celestial body – between equinoxes and solstices– generated several cults, festivals and propitiatory rites, encouraging hope in the Sun’s timely return to warm fields and crops, and so generating prosperity and happiness for mankind. Its constancy – almost a symbol of immortality – prompted people to create sundials and calendars, guided architects and priests to position the corner stone of temples and to raise the megaliths of the ancient Neolithic constructions.

Galileo was the first to introduce a new perspective: from mysterious and immutable astronomical object, the Sun became a star crisscrossed by dark spots and fiery plumes, a place characterised by extreme temperatures, thermo-nuclear reactions and magnetic fields. The Sun thus became object of scientific investigation, continuously prompting new questions and problems. In particular, its impact on the climate, as well as the strong impact that high-energy solar phenomena, such as flares or coronal mass ejections, can have on our technology-dependent society, are the reason why studying the Sun and its interaction with the Earth is becoming increasingly important. But that is not all: the Sun also acts as an astrophysical laboratory unique of its kind: because of its proximity, the Sun opens up opportunities for examining in great detail physical processes governing the distant universe. Research in solar physics focuses on a series of major questions which, identified and formulated several decades ago, are still waiting for an answer. All of this explains why a survey of the Sun, from Earth or from space, is being conducted in earnest today by the world’s leading spatial agencies (NASA, ESA, JAXA) and by many terrestrial astronomical observatories.

Ticino is home to the Istituto Ricerche Solari Locarno (IRSOL), which has been studying our star since 1960. IRSOL studies the physical conditions prevailing in the Sun’s atmosphere, focusing especially on its magnetism and the phenomena connected to it. "The SUN, our star" is a project that IRSOL’s researchers conceived in collaboration with L’ideatorio, Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), in order to offer society, from schools to the public at large, opportunities to meet and interact, and so discover the importance of our star and the research related to it. More particularly, drawing on a well-defined network of partners, we want to build an exhibition around the Sun, present immersive video screenings of the Sun inside a planetarium and a multivision system devoted to it. In addition, we want to create opportunities for researchers and the public to meet and interact, by designing flexible and informal formats and advanced training courses for teachers.

Combining the scientific know-how of IRSOL with the teaching and communication skills of L’ideatorio, the project, straight from the construction phase, involves schools (Lugano School Authority, Department of education, Culture and Sport-DECS), two astronomical observatories, local, national, and international astronomical associations (EST, SSAA) (see Letters of intent). To date, the project has collected third and own funds for about 190'000 chf. The project will be able to count on the large number of regular visitors that follow the initiatives of L’ideatorio. An accurate, fine-tuned organisation from the very beginning guarantees impact and reach to the project. This resubmission proposal benefits of the different feedbacks received from the first submission and tries to take them into account in order to improve the project.

Additional information

Start date
End date
24 Months
Funding sources
Swiss National Science Foundation / Agora