Franco Pacini

Franco Pacini

Franco Pacini
Born May 10, 1939
Florence, Italy
Died January 25, 2012(2012-01-25) (aged 72)
Florence, Italy
Residence Italy
Citizenship Italian
Fields Astrophysics
Institutions University of Florence
Arcetri Observatory
Known for pulsar, neutron stars
Notable awards Prize of the Italian Government for Science (1997)

Franco Pacini (May 10, 1939 – January 25, 2012)[1] was an Italian astrophysicist and professor at the University of Florence. He carried out research, mostly in High Energy Astrophysics, in Italy, France, United States and at the European Southern Observatory.


Upon completion of high school education in Urbino, he studied physics in Pisa and Rome, where he graduated in 1964. From 1967 to 1973 he was research associate and visiting professor at Cornell University. In 1967 he published the first specific suggestion that strongly magnetized neutron stars could release their rotational energy and produce a large flow of relativistic particles.[2] The discovery of pulsars in Cambridge (UK) proved the correctness of his hypothesis just a few months later.

On a different topic, after the discovery of the strong infrared emission from some galaxies, Pacini, together with Martin Harwit, put forward the suggestion[3] that these sources are related to an intense burst of formation of massive stars, a scenario which is now generally accepted.

In 1975 Pacini joined the newly created scientific group of the European Southern Observatory in Geneva. In 1978 he became Director of the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory in Florence. He held this post until 2001. During his tenure the Observatory greatly expanded its scientific activity in different areas, in a broad context of international collaborations. In particular, during this period the Arcetri Observatory became partner in the construction of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT).

He was member of a large number of international boards and committees. He was President of the International Astronomical Union for a 3-year period (2001–03). At the 25th General Assembly of the IAU, held in Sydney in 2003, he proposed to designate 2009 the International Year of Astronomy as a way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first telescopic observations.[4]

He was Member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Associate Member of the Royal Astronomical Society and Member of the American Astronomical Society. In 1997 he received the Prize of the Italian Government for Science.

Over the years he has carried out a wide range of activities aimed at communicating Science to the general public (children and adults), with frequent public lectures, popular articles in newspapers, books, appearances on television.

Asteroid 25601 Francopacini is named after him.


  1. ^ "Franco Pacini, 1939–2012". ESO. 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  2. ^ Pacini, F. (1967). "Energy Emission from a Neutron Star". Nature 216 (5115): 567.  
  3. ^ Harwit, M.; Pacini, F. (1975). "Infrared galaxies - Evolutionary stages of massive star formation". The Astrophysical Journal 200: L127.  
  4. ^ Fienberg, R. T. (2011). "Future Professional Communication in Astronomy II". Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings 1. pp. 37–46.