An all-female podium for the 2021 “Enrico Fermi” Prize for the study of the universe of the Italian Physics Society: the winners were Elena Aprile, of Columbia University in New York, and Patrizia Caraveo, of the National Institute of Astrophysics
The “Enrico Fermi” 2021 Award of the Italian Physical Society (Sif) was awarded ex-aequo to two illustrious scientists: Elena Aprile , of Columbia University in New York, and Patrizia Caraveo , of the National Institute of Astrophysics, “for their very important contributions to the observation of the Universe through different magnitudes and techniques ”. This prestigious award, established in 2001 by Sif on the occasion of the centenary of Fermi’s birth, is awarded annually to one or more members who have particularly honored physics with their discoveries.
The research areas of the winners, indeed of this year’s winners, concern astrophysics and astroparticle physics. The Award was in fact given to Elena Aprile “for her pioneering research on the properties of liquid xenon for the detection of radiation and for her contribution to the research of dark matter” and to Patrizia Caraveo “for her role as world leader in the field of ‘high energy emission of neutron stars and for its contribution to the identification of Geminga ”.
“First of all, I would like to thank Sif for choosing to reward astrophysics,” Caraveo told Media Inaf . “I have always argued that neutron stars are the celestial objects that physicists like the most, who rightly consider them a fantastic laboratory for studying physics in extreme conditions. I was no exception, even if it is not I who chose to take care of the neutron stars, but rather the opposite happened: they chose me. At the beginning of my career I let myself be fascinated by the most enigmatic gamma source of the sky. Nanni Bignami had called her Geminga (or rather Gh’è minga) because it was a gamma source in the Gemini constellation with no notable counterpart. We didn’t know what it was then, but the years spent putting together the pieces of an astronomical puzzle have been exciting. Eventually Geminga revealed her nature as a whimsical neutron star which, in recent years, has become the progenitor of a large family. Obviously, my thoughts go to Nanni who always said that having coined the name Geminga was his greatest contribution to astrophysics. It is with him that I want to virtually share this award ».
Elena Aprile, professor at Columbia University in New York, where she is, among other things, co-director of the Columbia Astrophysic Laboratory in the period 2003-2006, is an expert in noble liquid detectors and their applications in particle physics and in astrophysics. He initially worked with liquid argon detectors, then specializing in the use of liquid xenon and thus creating the first time projection camera as a Compton telescope for gamma rays of astrophysical origin. In particular, she was the spokesperson of NASA’s Liquid Xenon Gamma-Ray Imaging Telescope project, for imagingof cosmic sources with launches of aerostatic balloons at very high altitudes. Since 2001, his research interests have turned to astroparticle physics for direct liquid xenon detection of the dark matter of the universe, which is believed to be made of Wimps. She is the creator and spokesperson of the modern underground Xenon experiment, at the National Laboratories of the Gran Sasso of the Infn.
Patrizia Caraveo is a research director at the Institute of Space Astrophysics and Cosmic Physics) of INAF in Milan, which she also directed from 2011 to 2017. She is an expert in optical astronomy. He has collaborated on several international space missions dedicated to high energy astrophysics starting with the European Cos-B mission. It is currently involved in the European Integral mission, in the Italian Agile mission and in the Nasa Swift and Fermi missions, all in orbit and fully operational. For some years he has coordinated the participation of INAF in the great international Cherenkov Telescope Array project for the study of gamma-ray astronomy of very high energies. Thanks to his research, he fundamentally contributed to the discovery and interpretation of the isolated neutron star Geminga, the first to show no evidence of radio emission, the nature of which had remained mysterious for over 20 years. Her results paved the way for a more general study of the X and optical phenomenology of numerous pulsars, ushering in a new chapter in high energy astrophysics.
Featured image: Elena Aprile (top) and Patrizia Caraveo (bottom) © INAF
Provided by INAF