770   Visual presentation

Virtual Reality for increasing the awareness of current scientific research

Author: Laura Daricello
INAF - Palermo Observatory, Italy

In order to increase the awareness of current scientific research also in the youngest segments of the citizenry the Italian National Institute of Astronomy developed 3DMAP-VR project (https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2515-5172/ab5966) to visualize astrophysical phenomena in VR.

3DMAP-VR gives the public the chance to visit the space as we know it today and directly interact with current scientific data. In the last months, it had a tremendous impact for dissemination and outreach activities (e.g. the European Researcher’s Night, an invited presentation at the 75th United Nations General Assembly - UNGA75 - in New York, 2 Oct. 2020).

The project also got the Science Spotlight in the Sketchfab community (https://sketchfab.com/blogs/community/modeling-astrophysical-phenomena-at-inaf-oapa/) and videos produced in the framework of 3DMAP-VR, including virtual reality movies and augmented reality, were published on edu.inaf.it.

We produced an e-education lesson, where students interacted with the astronomers, while making a journey inside the virtual environment where a star was forming, or where a star died, or of exotic planets orbiting around other stars.

We published on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/user/INAFOaPA) and shared on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/astropa.news) a web series made of nine episodes, showing many astronomical environments and phenomena, through VR; followers increased by a factor of ~5 in the last 5 months!

The use of VR for communicating astronomy, provides an immersive experience which enhances the capability of grasping details and extract information. Thanks to the possibility of navigating inside the simulations and interacting with them (literally by using the hands), it is possible to get a sensorial perception of the object under examination.

VR experience, combined with explanatory notes from a professional astrophysicist, is extremely entertaining and concepts are easy to be caught and understood. This approach is particularly useful in case of reduced in presence events due to the ongoing pandemic.

Co-author: Laura Leonardi
INAF - Palermo Observatory, Italy

Co-author: Salvatore Orlando
INAF - Palermo Observatory, Italy

Co-author: Fabrizio Bocchino
INAF - Palermo Observatory, Italy

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