Astrophysicist Raisa de Lourdes Freitas Estrella was just one year old when the Hubble Telescope, one of the most important imaging satellites in space, was launched by NASA 31 years ago.
Today, born Jo पैदाo Pessoa, a postdoctoral fellow at the US space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is a member of the Brazilian team that made an important discovery based on images and information captured by Hubble. For the first time, it was recognized that a planet – GJ 1132b, outside the Solar System – reconstructed its atmosphere, the layer of gases around it. This marks a new step in the study of life beyond Earth.
At the end of May, Raisa made another achievement: it won an award from the International Astronomical Union, a leading body in this field that has existed since 1919 and has members in 106 countries. The award was for his doctoral thesis, done in Brazil and the United States, for a precise analysis of the atmosphere of exoplanets (which do not orbit around the Sun).
“As a woman and scientist, it gives me hope and encouragement to continue research to overcome many difficulties in pursuing a career in Brazil,” says Raisa. All. “I hope this award is an incentive for more young Brazilians to pursue science. Women in particular, as we are still a minority in the exact sciences and in high positions.”
Teenager fascinated by astronomy to researcher at NASA
Opting to study physics at the UFRN (Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte) already had a specific aim: to deepen the study of astronomy. “I remember my mother always bringing me a copy of ‘Astronomy’ magazine”, says Raisa, who became a researcher in astrophysics as an undergraduate.
His career as a scientist progressed to a master’s degree at the Universidad Presbyteriana Mackenzie in So Paulo, where he revised his doctorate in 2018. At the time, through a sandwich doctorate, in which part of the work is completed at another academic institution, he likely conducted your research at NASA, where he is today.
“Due to the pandemic, I ended up going straight for postdoctoral studies because of the closure of the Brazil-US borders”, she says, whose next aim is to become a researcher or professor at an American university. “At the moment, I am here looking for a job. However, no matter where I am, I will always try to maintain cooperation with Brazil, as I currently maintain cooperation with groups in Mackenzie and USP. [Universidade de São Paulo]”He says.
“Being a scientist in Brazil today is very difficult because of the increasing cuts in science and technology”
“I mentally clothed myself with manhood in the profession”
Raisa points out that although women are increasingly involved in scientific careers, a space that until recently was limited to men, she felt for the first time the trials of the mechanics to which researchers are subject.
“I noticed that our work is questioned a lot more than other colleagues. I experienced moments of friction with some men, I can’t say whether it was jealousy on their part or some other reason, as I did with my There was progress in my career. It was difficult for me. For me, because instead of worrying about my research, I mentally exhausted myself with these problems.”
He says the aim of his fight is to open up more and more space for women’s victory. She saw ecological feminism as a way to unite her struggle for women to protect the environment, one of her teenage passions. “Ecofeminism is one aspect of the movement that recognizes the relationship between environmental degradation and degradation with the oppression and subjugation of women”, she explains. “This is related to environmentalism and other causes, such as animal rights, to show that females and females of other species in nature are the fruit of the same exploitative system.”
“With Hubble, I Harvest the ‘Fingerprints’ of Planets”
living in the city of pasadena, in the state of California, Raisa Estrella has a research routine that involves analyzing data obtained by the spectrograph, an instrument that beams light into space to detect the presence of molecules or atoms in an exoplanet’s atmosphere. The instrument is on board the Hubble.
“For that, we have to wait for the moment the planet passes in front of its parent star. [em torno da qual orbitam] And when this happens, some of the light emitted by the star will pass through the planet’s atmosphere and be absorbed by molecules or atoms at certain wavelengths, and eventually the light will reach the space telescope. It’s like a ‘fingerprint'”, explains Raisa, who is clearly excited about what she does. Despite having already been vaccinated with two doses and 53 of the state she lives in % of the population has received at least the first dose, work, for now, remains remote.
Talent, dedication, opportunity and the privilege of being able to study in a country invested in science explain Raisa’s success in her career.
“When I began my research career, about 13 years ago, I had the opportunity to pursue scientific initiation during my full bachelor’s degree in physics, as well as a sandwich degree abroad at Ciência sem Fronteiras. [programa criado em 2011 para formação acadêmica no exterior]. A student starting today is not likely to have the same opportunities,” he says. “Today we have a government in Brazil that Funding cuts for federal universities, the largest center for the training of scientists, and where most of the research is done.”