WOW – A Way to Other Worlds

Giuseppina Micela
INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo

The exoplanetary science is today one of the most culturally lively and stimulating fields in astronomy and planetary science. Today international scientific institutes and agencies devote a large amount of resources to the development of new sophisticated techniques, pushing present-day instruments to be more and more sensitive to small rocky planets, possibly hosting life.
With this proposal we want to push the Italian scientific community on the frontier of the exoplanetary research through an aggressive scientific and technological programme devoted to:

  • the upgrade of the today available instrumentation (HARPS-N, GIANO, ESPRESSO, APACHE, SPHERE) that will allow INAF to use the most sensitive and precise instruments in the northern hemisphere, and perhaps in the world, for the exoplanet study.
  • the improvement of the quality of the Italian contribution to the new instruments in the design or implementation phases (CHEOPS, PLATO, EChO)
  • the definition of the scientific requirements and feasibility studies for future international instrumentation and innovative technologies (HIRES, Adaptive Optics, retrofitting of Cherenkov telescopes)
    the set up of a sound interpretative capability based on laboratory simulation, data analysis, and modeling


The initiatives above will be accompanied by a robust educational programme, aiming at making the public increasingly aware of the most recent discoveries, contributing to the knowledge society , and contributing to raise a new generation of young well motivated scientists. The proposed programme will allow INAF community to increase significantly its scientific and technological competitiveness by attacking all aspects of the exoplanet research, taking advantage of the coordination and synergies guaranteed by the present project.


Immediate scientific and technologic objectives include:

  • The discovery of rocky planets around low mass stars in the habitable zone and their statistics;
  • The determination of the internal structure of a subsample of transiting planets;
  • The derivation of atmospheric composition and temperature for a sample of hot Jupiters and Neptunians;
    The set up of a database of atmospheres in the Solar System;
  • A robust definition of habitability and biomarkers
  • The development of competences in laser comb technology;
    The installation of a precise calibration system to GIANO IR spectrograph and of a simultaneous optical – IR spectroscopic observations set up at TNG;
  • A preliminary version of the data reduction software of ESPRESSO;
  • The characterisation of optical and mechanical surface properties of materials for the CHEOPS mirror;
  • The design of the polarimeter for SPHERE;
  • Feasibility, prototypal activities and comparison of the performances of innovative approaches for
  • Adaptive Optics for exoplanetary studies;
  • The design and acquisition of the components of a stable, low noise infrared photometric camera;
  • The development plan for a prototype and test of infrared detectors at very low temperature
  • Feasibility of retrofitting Cerenkov telescopes for exoplanetary studies;
  • The set up of laboratory to measure the optical properties of high temperature and pressure gas mixtures of gas;
  • The implementation of temperature and pressure controlled vacuum cell for experiments of EUV and X-ray irradiation.

WOW – Organization of the work



WP 0 – Project Management (G. Micela)

WP 1 – Formation and Dissemination (S. Sciortino)

WP 2 – Spectroscopic detections (A. Sozzetti)

WP 3 – Transits (I. Pagano)

WP 4 – Imaging (S. Desidera)

WP 5 – Atmospheres (G. Micela)

WP 6 – Solar System and Laboratory Simulations (G. Piccioni)



Meeting: La ricerca dei pianeti extrasolari in Italia – Roma 5-7 Novembre 2014