Science in Shorts Awards: behind the scenes

What is needed to create an intriguing and catching video of only 60 seconds, which talks about your activity as researcher? For sure an idea to start from, a lot of creativity and also a bit of luck. In this post I tell you how this idea became reality.
Published in Astronomy
Science in Shorts Awards: behind the scenes

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I am an astrophysicist and I work in the field of γ-ray bursts, with particular attention to their role in the context of multi-messenger astronomy. With the epochal event of GW170817 we witnessed the joint detection of gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation from the same astrophysical event: the merger of two neutron stars. Since these kind of events produce ultra-relativistic outflows, they are in principle candidate sources of high-energy neutrinos. Here the idea: imagine the ideal multi-messenger detection of photons, gravitational waves and neutrinos from the same event. 

Now we needed a location. I work as a PhD student in the Gran Sasso Science Institute, a school of advanced studies immersed in the mountains of the centre of Italy. Close to our institute, at more than 2000 m of altitude, the Observatory of Campo Imperatore contains one of the currently operative Italian telescopes dedicated to the search of the optical counterpart of gravitational wave events. The idea was to shoot the scenes outside and inside the dome containing one of the two telescopes hosted by the observatory, but it was February and the weather conditions are notably unpredictable on the mountains. We went up the first time but the weather changed suddenly. We were on the top of the observatory and the wind was so strong to sweep away our backpacks. We had to come back a second time and the weather and the visibility were purely astonishing. Thanks to these favourable conditions, we decided to take the opportunity and we climbed the closest peak to the observatory, reaching 2422 m of altitude. There the last scene was shot.

The core of the video was ready. During the video editing I added some animations, most of which are drawn by me with the help of a tablet. The most difficult part? Choose and select the right words to convey the concept of a multi-messenger detection. 

In the videos there are also some, more or less, hidden details. For instance, the smile of Grace resembles the shape of the typical chirp signal associated to a merger of compact objects. Or the motion of the neutrino, which recalls the physical phenomenon of flavour oscillation. Finally, the last sentence "...observe, listen and taste the mysteries of the universe" reconnects to the three characters: the photon, through which we can observe the sky, the gravitational wave which is the "sound" of the space-time and the neutrino with its three-fold flavour.

The aim of this video is not limited to the "Science in shorts" contest, but it is also an expedient to advertise and give emphasis to the excellence that Italy represents in our field of research. The observatory of Campo Imperatore and the Virgo Interferometer in Tuscany are only two of many realities that make Italy at the forefront of multi-messenger astrophysics. Therefore I thank the INAF, National Institute for Astrophysics, the INFN, National Institute of Nuclear Physics, as well as my institute GSSI for all the support for the realisation of this video.

Finally a special thank to Jacopo Tissino, a colleague of my department who took care of the video shooting with its drone. Many thanks also to all those who contributed with suggestions and advises to improve the final version.

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