A young Colombian researcher, Camilo Jaramillo-Correa, had the unique opportunity to study samples of dust brought from outer space. The samples were collected by the Hayabusa2 mission of the Japanese Space Agency, which became the first to transmit images of rovers operating on an asteroid and return geological samples to Earth. Jaramillo-Correa, who was pursuing his PhD in Nuclear Engineering at the time, designed and built a sealed sample capsule to contain the samples and protect them from air contamination.

His mentors asked if it was possible to use the capsule to study extraterrestrial material, and Jaramillo-Correa modified and tested the capsule to meet the strict sample protection requirements. The team conducted studies on two sets of samples from the asteroid Ryugu: individual particles and fine dust. The analysis is still ongoing, but they hope to obtain information about the composition, properties, and possible evidence of space weathering of asteroids.

Studying asteroids is important for two main reasons, according to Jaramillo-Correa. Firstly, they provide a snapshot of the early stages of the Solar System and can help us understand how it formed, as well as the formation of planet Earth and the origin of life. Secondly, studying asteroids can provide insights into the effects of space weathering and atmospheric pollution.

Jaramillo-Correa’s journey from Colombia to the United States for his research also highlights the differences in research environments and access to resources. He noted that researchers in the United States have much easier access to resources, such as instruments, compared to those in Colombia. Despite this, he learned to appreciate the capabilities of his laboratory in Colombia and to be resourceful.

Another Colombian researcher, Andrea Guzmán Mesa, pursued her dreams in the field of astrophysics. Her PhD focused on studying the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system. She compared atmospheric models with observational data using machine learning frameworks to make predictions about the composition of those atmospheres. Guzmán Mesa also played a key role in increasing the visibility of female scientists in Colombia, hoping to achieve real changes in the country’s research ecosystem.

– Original article.