Scientific areas of interest

  • Multi-phase (ionised/atomic/molecular) galactic outflows
  • Interstellar and circumgalactic medium (ISM, CGM)
  • Ultra luminous and luminous infrared galaxies ((U)LIRGs)
  • Feedback from active galactic nuclei (AGN) and star formation
  • Early Universe and high-redshift AGN
  • Surveys of molecular and atomic gas in galaxies
  • Dual and binary AGN

Ongoing projects

Towards an Atacama Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (AtLAST)

Astrophysical observations at (sub-)mm wavelengths (λ from ~300 μm to ~3mm) allow us to study the cold and dense material in the Universe, hence probing the formation of stars and planets, and the interstellar and circumgalactic medium of galaxies across all cosmic times. The current generation of 10-m class single dish telescopes delivered the first surveys of the sky at (sub-)mm wavelengths, allowing us to go far beyond the previously optical/IR- biased view of the Universe. Follow-up observations with interferometers then revealed, in exquisite detail, the morphology and kinematics of such (sub-)mm sources, enabling tests and revisions of theoretical models for the formation and evolution of planets, stars, and galaxies. However, it is now clear that without a step change in the capabilities of single-dish facilities in the 2030s, interferometers (like the ALMA observatory) will soon become source-starved. The current generation of 10-m class single dish telescopes, with their limited field of view, spatial resolution, and sensitivity, can only reveal the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the (sub-)mm source population, both for Galactic and extragalactic studies. These limitations cannot be compensated for by interferometers, which are all intrinsically affected by a low mapping speed and by the loss of diffuse extended signals.

The Atacama Large Aperture Submillimeter telescope (AtLAST) project is a concept for a 50m -diameter single dish observatory to be built near the ALMA site. With its extremely large field of view (the goal is ~ 2 degrees), spatial resolution (up to ~1.5” at 350 μm), and sensitivity to both point sources and large-scale structures, AtLAST will be transformational for all fields of Astronomy in the 2030s. A recently approved Horizon2020 project set to start in 2021 will deliver a comprehensive design study for such a next-generation single-single dish facility.

Selection of science white papers submitted to the US 2020 Decadal Survey supporting the case for AtLAST :

  • Cicone et al. 2019: "The hidden circumgalactic medium". Link to paper
  • Geach et al. 2019: "The case for a sub-millimeter SDSS: a 3D map of galaxy evolution to z~10". Link to paper
  • Mroczkowski et al. 2019: "A High-resolution SZ View of the Warm-Hot Universe". Link to paper
  • Kohno et al. 2019: "Exploration and characterization of the earliest epoch of galaxy formation: beyond the re-ionization era". Link


COURAGE (Cold outflows ruffling the active galactic nucleus environment, PI: Cicone) has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 664931. The aim of this project is to test models of galaxy evolution invoking internal feedback mechanisms to regulate and, in extreme cases, rapidly suppress star formation in galaxies. A multi-wavelength observational approach, combining insights from the radio/millimetre to the X-ray bands, is adopted to investigate multi-phase energetic outflows that can be the manifestation of “radiative-mode” feedback from active galactic nuclei.

Relevant publications:

  • Cicone et al. "Enhanced UV radiation and dense clumps in the molecular outflow of Mrk 231", A&A, Volume 633, id.A163, 13 pp., January 2020. ADS link to the article
  • Sirressi, Cicone et al. "Testing the blast-wave AGN feedback scenario in MCG-03-58-007", MNRAS., Volume 489, Issue 2, p.1927-1938, October 2019. ADS link to the article
  • Cicone et al. : "ALMA [CI]3P1-3P0 observations of NGC 6240: a puzzling molecular outflow, and the role of outflows in the global αCO factor of (U)LIRGs", The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 863, Issue 2, id.143, 18pp, Aug 2018. ADS link to the article
  • Cicone et al.: "The largely unconstrained multiphase nature of outflows in AGN host galaxies", Nature Astronomy, 2, 176-178, March 2018. ADS link to the article

Previous publications on this topic:

  • Cicone et al. : "Outflows and complex stellar kinematics in SDSS star forming galaxies", Astronomy & Astrophysics, 588, A41, Apr 2016. ADS link to the article
  • Cicone et al.: "Very extended cold gas, star formation and outflows in the halo of a bright quasar at z > 6", Astronomy & Astrophysics, 574, A14, Feb 2015. ADS link to the article Cambridge press release
  • Cicone et al.: "Massive molecular outflows and evidence for AGN feedback from CO observations", Astronomy & Astrophysics, 562, A21, Feb 2014. ADS link to the article
  • Cicone et al.: "The physics and the structure of the quasar-driven outflow in Mrk 231", Astronomy & Astrophysics, 543, A99, Jul 2012. ADS link to the article

ALMA CO(2-1) image and spectra showing the extended and massive molecular outflow in NGC6240 (Cicone et al. 2018, ApJ)


The APEX low-redshift legacy survey for molecular gas (ALLSMOG, PI: Wagg) is a large ESO observing program aimed at constraining the molecular gas content of ~100 nearby star forming galaxies through the carbon monoxide (CO) emission line. ALLSMOG is the first large systematic extragalactic survey of CO ever conducted with the Atacama pathfinder experiment (APEX) telescope. APEX is located on the Chajnantor plateau at 5000 meters above sea level, in the Chilean Andes. The final data release comprises APEX CO(2-1) emission line observations of 88 low-mass (108.5<M [M] < 1010) star-forming galaxies, and IRAM 30m observations of the CO(1-0) and CO(2-1) emission lines in additional nine galaxies with M< 109M. ALLSMOG allows us to probe the molecular gas content of more typical and lower stellar mass galaxies than have been studied by previous extragalactic CO surveys. The reduced data products are public and can be retrieved through the ESO Phase 3 archive query. For additional info check the ALLSMOG website.


  • Cicone et al.: "The final data release of ALLSMOG: a survey of CO in typical local low-M star-forming galaxies", Astronomy & Astrophysics, 604, A53, Aug 2017. ADS link to the article . In the press: Media INAF article (Italian only) SKA press release (English)
  • Bothwell et al.: "Galaxy metallicities depend primarily on stellar mass and molecular gas mass", Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 595, id.A48. ADS link to the article
  • Bothwell et al.: "Molecular gas as the driver of fundamental galactic relations", MNRAS, Volume 455, Issue 2, p.1156-1170, Jan 2016. ADS link to the article
  • Bothwell et al. : "ALLSMOG: an APEX Low-redshift Legacy Survey for MOlecular Gas - I. Molecular gas scaling relations, and the effect of the CO/H2 conversion factor", MNRAS, Volume 445, Issue 3, p.2599-2620, Dec 2014. ADS link to the article

Scaling relations between the molecular gas content - as traced by Carbon Monoxide emission - and galaxy properties, for a statistically significant sample of local star-forming galaxies from the ALLSMOG and COLDGASS surveys (Cicone et al. 2017, A&A).

From dual to binary super massive black holes

At the INAF-Observatory of Brera we are conducting pilot studies and observations aimed at designing a sample of binary and dual AGN candidates, in preparation for future follow up studies with MAORY+MICADO (PI: Severgnini). MAORY is the Adaptive Optic (AO) module that will be installed at the E-ELT at the first light of the telescope. The MAORY science cases white book is available at this link.


  • Severgnini, Cicone et al. "Swift data hint at a binary Super Massive Black Hole candidate at sub-parsec separation", MNRAS, Volume 479, Issue 3, p. 3804-3813, Sep 2018. ADS link to the article


The SINFONI survey for unveiling the physics and effect of radiative feedback (SUPER, PI: Mainieri) is an ESO large program at the very large telescope (VLT). The survey is designed to obtain high-resolution, spatially-resolved spectroscopic observations of multiple optical emission lines (Hb, [OIII], Ha) for a statistically-significant sample of ~40 active galactic nuclei at z~2. The main goal of SUPER is to probe the effects of AGN feedback at the peak epoch of AGN activity and cosmic assembly, in a sample probing four orders of magnitude in AGN luminosity. I am particularly involved in the millimeter/sub-millimeter follow-up of SUPER targets using APEX and ALMA.

Check the SUPER website at this link


  • Circosta et al. "SUPER I: Toward an unbiased study of ionised outflows in z~2 active galactic nuclei: survey overview and sample characterization". A&A, Volume 620, id.A82, 27 pp. Nov 2018. ADS link to the article

Identification of high-redshift radio-loud AGNs

As members of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) consortium, the Observatory of Brera is developing the skills to exploit the LSST database to perform a statistical study of the quasar population in the first billion years of the Universe. By exploiting the currently available multi-wavelength databases, our group has already successfully identified a large sample of previously unknown radio-loud AGNs at z>5. We are now in the process of obtaining follow-up observations to confirm the redshifts and constrain the physical properties of these sources.


  • Belladitta et al. "The first blazar observed at z > 6", A&A, Volume 635, id.L7. March 2020. ADS link to the article
  • Belladitta et al. "An extremely X-ray weak blazar at z = 5", A&A, Volume 629, id.A68. September 2019. ADS link to the article
  • Caccianiga et al. "The space density of z > 4 blazars", MNRAS, Volume 484, Issue 1, p.204. March 2019. ADS link to the article


The MaNGA-ARO Survey of CO Targets is an ESO large programme (PI: Wylezalek) using the Arizona Radio Observatory 12m single-dish telescope to obtain molecular gas mass measurements of MaNGA galaxies through the CO(1-0) line. Since the beginning of 2018, MASCOT has already observed ~40 galaxies with a detection rate of 70%. For further information, check the MASCOT website at this link.


  • [coming soon]


The Measuring Active Galactic Nuclei Under MUSE Microscope (MAGNUM) survey is an ongoing effort to study, through MUSE observations of nearby Seyfert galaxies, the physical conditions of the narrow line region (NLR), the interplay between nuclear activity and star formation, and the effects and acceleration mechanisms of outflows.


  • Mingozzi et al. "The MAGNUM survey: different gas properties in the outflowing and disk components in nearby active galaxies with MUSE". A&A, in press. ArXiv preprint
  • Venturi et al. "MAGNUM survey: A MUSE-Chandra resolved view on ionized outflows and photoionization in the Seyfert galaxy NGC1365". A&A, Volume 619, id.A74. Nov 2018. ADS link to the article
  • Venturi et al. "Ionized gas outflows from the MAGNUM survey: NGC 1365 and NGC 4945". Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, Volume 4, id.46. Nov 2017. ADS link to the article
  • Cresci et al. "The MAGNUM survey: positive feedback in the nuclear region of NGC 5643 suggested by MUSE". A&A, Volume 582, id.A63, Oct 2015. ADS link to the article