MITO is a project proposed and developed by Francesco Melchiorri at the end of 70s. The project has become real with the effort of the Istituto di CosmoGeofisica, CNR in Turin (now Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario, IFSI/INAF - sezione di Torino) and the availability of the existing laboratory on the top of Testa Grigia mountain.
In the early 70s a 1.5-m in diameter telescope was installed at the Testa Grigia Laboratory and the first observations of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation in the 1.0 -1.4 mm atmospheric window were lead by Francesco Melchiorri. Those measurements showed that a high mountain site, like Testa Grigia, is suitable for these kinds of observations. After almost 20 years the precursor 1.5-m telescope was replaced with a 2.6-m one: the MITO (Millimetre & Infrared Testagrigia Observatory) project started. The telescope is now mainly dedicated to intensity and polarisation observations of CMB anisotropies at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths.
The Testa Grigia Laboratory was built in 1947 by the Centro di Studio per la Fisica Nucleare (Study Center for Nuclear Physics) of CNR (National Council of Research). On behalf of the Institute of Physics in Rome, headed by Edoardo Amaldi, the project and the realization were due to Gilberto Bernardini, Claudio Longo and Ettore Pancini. The construction requirements, applied to the adopted materials, satisfied the first observative goal: cosmic rays research. Low atomic number (~5) and density material (1.4 g/cm3) minimize the interaction with cosmic rays. At the same time good thermal insulation allows comfortable temperature inside the laboratory when outside the temperature goes down to – 40C.
The laboratory was in operation until mid 50s when research was interrupted for almost ten years due to financial problems. Since 1965 the laboratory has been run in Turin by Istituto di CosmoGeofisica, before, and IFSI (Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario) dell'INAF, after, under the management of Carlo Castagnoli, Pio Picchi and Carlo Morello, directors of Sezione di Torino of IFSI/INAF.
The laboratory is located in Valle d’Aosta (Northern Italy 45° 56’ 03” North, 7° 42’ 28” East) at an altitude of 3480 meter a.s.l. on the Italian-Swiss border: to be exact the border cuts through the laboratory. Three cable cars, controlled by Cervino S.p.A., link Testa Grigia to Breuil-Cervinia, the closest village down to the valley at 2000 m a.s.l. The continuous collaboration with the Cervino Society has always ensured access to the laboratory even during severe atmospheric conditions.
This is the oldest high quote scientific laboratory in Italy.
Nowdays the reasearch at MITO is managed by Marco De Petris of the Experimental Cosmology Group G31 (Dipartimento di Fisica - Università "La Sapienza" in Rome - Italy) with fundamental contributions from tens of students that are, and were, attending MITO researches at different levels: stages, undergraduates, thesis, PhD students and PostDocs. For request of collaboration please contact: marco.depetris at roma1.infn.it.
For the researchers the life in the laboratory is still an adventure nowadays: complete isolation during stormy days and water production from snow just like 60 years ago!