Three Argentine women scientists - Making waves
In my book, An Argentine in my Kitchen, the narrator Catherine writes newsletters to her friends. In the first newsletter, she mentions the Argentine geostationary satellites ARSAT-1 and ARSAT 2. Extending this extra-planetary theme, here are the stories of three Argentine high-flying women scientists.
It’s all relative. Or is it relativity?
In February 2016, in a huge breakthrough for astronomy, scientists at LIGO - the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory - found proof of the existence of gravitational waves, a phenomenon predicted by Einstein. The spokesperson for LIGO was Argentine scientist Gabriela González, a professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University.
After the announcement and a standing ovation for the scientists involved, she said, ‘We’re all crazy happy. Einstein would be very glad.’
Because I don’t understand gravitational waves, here is a quote from LIGO’s website. ‘Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time (the fabled “fabric” of the Universe) caused by massive objects moving with extreme accelerations. In outer space that means objects like neutron stars or black holes orbiting around each other at ever increasing rates, or stars that blow themselves up.’
Gabriela González was elected to membership in the US National Academy of Sciences in 2017.
The sky's the limit
In October 2018 Argentina launched the SAOCOM 1A satellite. More than 800 engineers participated in its design and construction. The principal scientist was Laura Frulla, who holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Buenos Aires.
Satellites with optical systems are disadvantaged by cloud cover. But SAOCOM 1A, with its microwave radar, can measure humidity at all times, and scientists can model the ground water profile to a depth of two metres. Farmers will be able to directly access satellite data reports and graphics via the internet, and make decisions regarding the timing for planting, fertilising and irrigating their crops, as well as estimating yields. Spraying for fusarium, a fungus that affects wheat and other cereals, will be easier because the satellite will show affected crop areas. The satellite can also forecast the growth of watersheds in productive areas. One of its functions will be the monitoring of natural disasters.
Fly me to the moon
Dr Adriana Ocampo is a planetary geologist and Science Program Manager at NASA Headquarters. She is the Lead Scientist for NASA’s New Frontiers program, which aims at a greater understanding of worlds at the edge of the solar system. New Frontiers includes the Juno mission to Jupiter and the New Horizons mission to Pluto.
Dr Ocampo was born in Colombia and her family moved to Argentina before her first birthday. When she was fifteen they moved to the USA. So she is considered to be partly Argentine.
From a young age, stars intrigued and attracted her. At night she stared at the stars and wondered how far away they were, and whether people lived on them. She used kitchen pots to make spaceships, and her dolls were always dressed as astronauts. She said, ‘I liked to put a colander on my head and imagine myself going off into space.’ Her dog Taurus was her co-pilot.
A favourite moment in her career was her research leading to the discovery of the Chicxulub impact crater. The impact that formed this crater caused the extinction of more than half of the Earth's species, including the dinosaurs.
And I’ll finish this post with a quote from Dr Ocampo:
‘Yo siempre digo que no hay NO, más bien hay muchas maneras de llegar al SÍ.’
'I always say there is no NO, rather there are many ways to arrive at YES.’
Find out more about Argentina in my book, An Argentine in my Kitchen.