Scientific Research Project Title

Compact Astrophysical Objects and Neutrinos

Research Institution

University of Copenhagen


Particle Astrophysics and Astrophysics


Phone: +45 35 33 32 27

Research leader

Irene Tamborra

Associate Professor, born 1983

We will unveil the secrets behind the most extreme cosmic fireworks by employing a fascinating elementary particle, the neutrino.

What is your project about?

Among the most extreme events in our Universe, are the deaths of massive stars in violent supernova explosions. Others arise when two relatively close stars die and leave two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole. The binary system made by those objects further evolves giving rise to a compact binary merger. The mechanism behind those cosmic fireworks is full of mysteries, but compact sources are considered to be the main factories of all elements heavier than iron. An elementary particle, the neutrino, has a fundamental but yet to be unraveled role in compact sources. Through the development of novel methodologies, this project will shed light on the impact of neutrinos, and their conversions among different kinds, in the dynamics of compact sources and in the synthesis of new elements.

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How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

I have been fascinated by the sky since I was a kid. During my studies, I was intrigued by the existence of feebly interacting particles, whose properties are not fully grasped yet. I decided to combine those two passions and make them part of my daily research job. I find amazing to exploit the chance of exploring cataclysmic events in our Universe through the magnifying glass of ghostly elementary particles and, at the same time, that such weakly interacting particles could fundamentally affect the early stages of our Universe as well as astrophysical sources. 

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

Unveiling the role of neutrinos in the mechanism of compact sources will require the development of novel and sophisticated analytical and numerical techniques. This is an uncharted territory entailing interdisciplinary work at the interface of astrophysics, particle physics, and nuclear physics. We will also create the most advanced analysis of the observable neutrino imprints due to the source dynamics and inspect the impact of neutrinos in the synthesis of new elements. The ultimate goal will be to address some of the most fundamental questions on the mechanism behind compact astrophysical objects. This project is bound to completely change the way we understand compact astrophysical objects and will bring us a step closer to understand the origin of Life. 

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What is your estimate of the impact which your project may have to society in the long term?

This project will give me the opportunity to teach topics at the forefront of Particle Astrophysics and Astrophysics to Master and Bachelor students. All the students (at BSc, Msc and PhD level) as well as the postdocs involved in the project will develop innovative tools to deal with highly interacting and non-linear systems and handle big data sets. This project will therefore provide them with expertise with a long range of applications in other research areas, as well as in the public and private sector. Moreover, I will use this project as a tool to encourage marginalized and underrepresented minorities to pursue higher education in Science. 

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

The chance of realizing such a fundamental research program through the Sapere Aude program will constitute a major boost for my career. It will allow me to consolidate my research activities in Denmark, and it will provide me with the necessary resources to bring my young and dynamic research team at the forefront of Particle Astrophysics and Astrophysics worldwide. This ambitious project will enable me to answer key questions in Neutrino Astrophysics. 

City of current residence

High school:
Liceo Scientifico, Ruvo di Puglia, Italy