These four UNAM women astronomers contributed to the consolidation of astronomy in Mexico. Today they are no longer here, but their legacy remains.
She was the first professional female astronomer in Mexico–of any gender. A Turkish migrant of Armenian origin, Paris Pishmish was the first woman to earn a PhD from the Faculty of Sciences at Istanbul University, Turkey. She worked for more than 50 years at UNAM's Institute of Astronomy (IA), where she studied galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. She was a teacher and trainer of the first generation of professional astronomers in Mexico, leaving a legacy of more than 100 people who continue to work in astronomy. She passed away in 1999 at the age of 88, and IA's main auditorium, in its Mexico City campus, is named after her.
Yolanda Gomez Castellanos
One of the founders of the Center (now the Institute) for Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics (IRyA), at UNAM Campus Morelia, Yolanda Gómez studied the gas clouds of young and old stars. Among her results, the first detection of water vapor around an old star stands out. A tireless popularizer of science, she was essential for the organization of the International Year of Astronomy in Mexico in 2009. Warm and cheerful, she received several awards for her outreach work. She passed away in 2012 at the age of 50, and the Promenade of Science at UNAM Campus Morelia bears her name.
Paola D'Alessio Vessuri
Born in Oxford, England, she obtained her master's and doctorate degrees at IA UNAM. Paola D' Alessio was also one of the founders of IRyA, where she studied the discs that form around new stars, a subject on which she was considered a worldwide expert. She published 100 research articles that still get citations, receiving several awards for her research work. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 49.
Barbara Pichardo Silva
With unmatched charisma, Bárbara Pichardo also graduated with a doctorate degree from IA UNAM. She later worked at the same Institute, studying the dynamics of gas and stars in our galaxy. Her model of the spiral arms of the Milky Way has been widely used around the world. She spread her overflowing joy to her students and also to people in high-impact outreach projects such as the Noche de las Estrellas national star party, or Pequeños Cosmonautas for young children. She passed away in 2019 at the age of 49, and a classroom at IA in Mexico City is named after her.
About IRyA, UNAM
The Instituto de Radioastronomía y Astrofísica (IRyA), or Institute for Radioastronomy and Astrophysics is an academic unit at UNAM, Campus Morelia, Mexico. We perform high-level and high-impact research in the areas of interstellar medium, star formation, evolved stars, high energy astrophysics, Galactic dynamics and structure, extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. We contribute to the education of high-level human resources through a postgraduate program, and we have close contact with society through diverse outreach programs.
If you are interested in our Institute, visit the English version of our webpage, www.irya.unam.mx/web/en
Dr. René A. Ortega Minakata
Outreach and Science Communication
IRyA UNAM Campus Morelia
Text: René A. Ortega Minakata, IRyA UNAM
Published in Gaceta UNAM on March 9, 2023 (in Spanish):