Image of the Week


Gaia's Women in Science


Some of the Gaia women present at the joint meeting of Gaia Coordination Units 4, 6 and 8 with the Gaia Data Processing Centre of CNES, in 2019 in Toulouse, France. Image credit: Chantal Panem


Fósiles del Cosmos

The book "Fósiles del Cosmos" by Paula Jofré was published in January 2022 and describes the history of the Milky Way. A special highlight is given in the book to the female scientists that advanced our knowledge on the Milky Way. Some of the quotes from the book are used to celebrate the Gaia women in science and all the women in the Gaia scientific community in hopes to inspire people to pursue careers in science. Today, February 11, is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The United Nations support with this day the full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, with the goal to further achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

Paula Jofré decided to write the book after finding out that the people in Chile knew very little about Gaia, even though the country is known for its telescopes installed in the Atacama Desert and the people are very interested in astronomy. The book was written during the pandemic and Paula Jofré was touched particularly by the articles being published about how female scientific careers were being affected by the extra load of domestic work. She decided to touch base with many of her female colleagues and highlight them in the book, by combining their experience as women along with their contributions to astronomy.

An important message of the book is also to show how many women are already working in astronomy, and that they are undertaking modern and challenging astronomical problems. The collective support of women is incredibly powerful!


"It’s easy to love STEM with its unequaled potential to change the world and to breach the realm of impossibility." - Holly Jackson (Fósiles del Cosmos)


"It was important for me when a well recognized scientist told me "why do you keep proving yourself that you can lead your projects? You have already done it, just continue doing so". After that I stopped questioning my leadership skills so much." - Patricia Tissera (Fósiles del Cosmos)


"I am touched when young women tell me that I have inspired them. It makes me understand that having women in visible roles is fundamental."  - Katia Cunha (Fósiles del Cosmos)


"It is very important to be aware that this is your life and nobody elses!" - Orlagh Creevey (Fósiles del Cosmos)


Estimated statistics of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (Gaia DPAC)

A few years ago, in 2018, some rough statistics were published on the distribution and participation of women in the Gaia Consortium. Today, this effort is repeated to follow up on the progress made since then.

People working for the Gaia space telescope are spread over Europe mostly (with small contributions from countries outside Europe). More than 100 institutes are involved in Gaia DPAC, and the consortium is organised through 9 coordination units (CUs) and 6 data processing centres (DPCs) with the DPAC Executive leading the distributed teams.


"Diversity in general, and gender diversity in particular, brings a fresh view on problems, and avoids that a discipline is trapped in paradigms impeding its progress. I see the change, and I expect a bright future for women in science." - Antonella Vallenari (Fósiles del Cosmos)


The full Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium consists of about 450 people. The collaboration is not static though, new members arrive while others leave pursuing other careers. The numbers provided here in Table 1 are the most up to date numbers as available for the Consortium in February 2022, a few months before a large data release. Similarly, in 2018 the numbers were based on the most up to date situation in February 2018, also a few months before a large data release. Another study on Gender in DPAC was performed in the Gaiaverse framework back in 2017.

When counting, all people in the Consortium were counted as full-time active for Gaia. It should be noted though, that this is not factually correct. Only a small selection is active full-time on the Gaia mission, most people can only dedicate part of their time to their activities in the Gaia Consortium. People can also be active in multiple coordation units and there is quite a lot of overlap between the different CUs and DPCs. Each contribution in a CU or DPC is counted as a full-time contribution.

The estimation of percentage of women active for Gaia is a rough estimate, and is based on guessing between male and female when looking at the names. Gender is not strictly defined as either male or female of course. This choice was made to be able to create a first estimation of the amount of female scientists and engineers in Gaia. The estimated percentages of 2018 were produced in the exact same way.


Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium Percentage of women (status 2018) Percentage of women (status 2022)
Entire consortium 25% 26%

CU1 (System Architecture)

23% 19%
CU2 (Data Simulations) 36% 50%
CU3 (Core Processing) 20% 21%
CU4 (Object Processing) 13% 19%
CU5 (Photometric Processing) 33% 32%
CU6 (Spectroscopic Reduction) 34% 31%
CU7 (Variability Processing) 27% 32%
CU8 (Astrophysical Parameters) 33% 34%
CU9 (Catalogue Access) 26% 26%
DPCB - Barcelona 8% 8%
DPCC - CNES, Toulouse 38% 27%
DPCE - ESAC, Madrid 10% 16%
DPCG - Geneva 18% 17%
DPCI - IoA, Cambridge 14% 23%
DPCT - Torino 22% 20%


Table 1: Estimated percentage of women in Gaia's coordination units (CUs) and Gaia's data processing centres (DPCs), status of February 2022 compared to the status of February 2018. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC.


From the estimated percentages it is seen that there are slightly more women active in the consortium now, than in 2018. But the numbers are so close, it is safer to say the percentage is stable. There are a few other groups like this, with a very small change in percentage: CU3, CU5, CU8 and CU9 as well as DPCB and DPCG.

An increase in the percentage of women is seen for CU2, CU4, CU7 and DPCI, DPCE. A decrease is seen for CU1, CU6 as well as for DPCC, DPCT.

When comparing the Gaia DPAC percentages to the astronomical community, Gaia DPAC's contribution from women (26% in 2022) is above average. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) member statistics from August 2021 show that the percentage of female members across all of the IAU is 21%.


“On Gaia, the work of a woman is valued in the same way as that of a man, which make us very proud of being in this wonderful team. We all work together as humans to offer a beautiful catalog! It is not always the case in science and computing where the statistics show a permanent decrease of women ratio . In software and system areas they often have to fight for being recognized in their early career, despite showing they can manage successfully professional projects and a personal life with children” - Chantal Panem, Claire Fabre, Céline Fouron, Arrate Magdaleno, Aurore Blazere



Some of the women active in Coordination Unit 7 at their meeting in February 2022. Top row, from left to right: Gisella Clementini (INAF OAS Bologna), Alessia Garofalo (INAF OAS Bologna), Maria Isabel Carnerero (INAF OATo) and her daughter Laia. Mid row, from left to right: Tatiana Muraveva (INAF OAS Bologna), Isabelle Lecoeur-Taibi, Elisa Distefano (INAF OACt). Bottom row, from left to right: Claudia Raiteri (INAF OATo) and Katarzyna Kruszyńska (OAUW, Pl). Image credit: Alessia Garofalo


"It is not easy to be a woman in science, no easier than being a woman working in any other field where men are a clear majority. It takes courage, determination, rigour, imagination, and great organisational skills to harmonise work and family life. But we can do it, no doubt about that. I love my work, I'm proud to be a woman scientist exploring the cosmos with Gaia, and I am also grateful to my husband, my daughter, my parents and my friends, who have never made me doubt that science is for women." - Gisella Clementini


"Science today is done through large projects. The image of a solitary person solving a mathematical problem is not so common anymore. Today it is more common that a group of people are working simultaneously on multiple tasks. Because of our history, women are trained for multitasking and our view to what needs to be done is generous and wide. This has made us important to lead modern science." - Orlagh Creevey (Fósiles del Cosmos)


A clear improvement can be seen in Table 2 when comparing the female representation in the management layer. In 2018 only 2 out of 9 Coordination Units were managed by a woman. In 2022 it seen that this has increased to 3.3 out of 9, with the decimal caused by the change of leadership in CU4 from one manager to three managers of CU4 subteams. The comparison is most fair if these three CU4-managers are counted as 1 full CU4 manager for this comparison. The contribution from women in the management of the data processing centres is at 50%, which is equal to the situation in 2018.


Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium Chair / Manager (status 2018) Chair / Manager (status 2022)

CU1 (System Architecture)

Male Male
CU2 (Data Simulations) Female Female
CU3 (Core Processing) Male Male
CU4 (Object Processing) Male Shared (33% Female, 66% Male)
CU5 (Photometric Processing) Male Male
CU6 (Spectroscopic Reduction) Female Female
CU7 (Variability Processing) Male Male
CU8 (Astrophysical Parameters) Male Female
CU9 (Catalogue Access) Male Male
Coordination Unit Managers 78% Male, 22% Female 60% Male, 40% Female
DPCB - Barcelona Male Male
DPCC - CNES, Toulouse Female Female
DPCE - ESAC, Madrid Female Female
DPCG - Geneva Male Male
DPCI - IoA, Cambridge Female Female
DPCT - Torino Male Male
Data Processing Centres Managers 50% Male, 50% Female 50% Male, 50% Female
DPAC Executive Board 66% Male, 33% Female 53% Male, 47% Female
Chair / Deputy Chair Male / Female Male / Female


Table 2: Estimated percentage of women in management for Gaia's coordination units (CUs) and Gaia's data processing centres (DPCs), status of February 2022 compared to the status of February 2018.




"I was very lucky to grow up in a family where gender was never seen as a science obstacle but the opposite, I had no doubts I wanted to study astrophysics and found no gender issues during my astrophysics studies in Spain or during my PhD times at UCL, UK, where I felt very welcome and respected being a women. However I had the experience that the professional world is different. Before joining Gaia, I have been working for private industry where women need to work harder to have any responsibility position. It is very difficult to see women being managers or to be offered permanent positions, even when the academy formation is in many cases higher than the male counterpart. I encourage young scientific women to follow their dreams and to keep changing the statistics." - Mercedes Ramos


Image copyright: Mercedes Ramos



"I have not suffered to be a woman in my career of astrophysicist. However, at the stage of high school, as well as university first degrees, I have been discouraged several times to undertake a career in astronomy or even physics. My teachers thought that it was too difficult for me. It was not clearly formulated that it was as a woman, but I understood it like that. But I was convinced that any dream would be better a try. And I did it. Women in physics are still rare, but I feel that in astrophysics, at least with my experience in France, women are welcome and considered as men are. However, seeing the recent statistics of new permanent positions in France the proportion of women tends to decrease. This is a warning that we should be very careful that the equality is maintained in the future. More has to be done at an earlier stage of studies to ensure that there is no self-censorship and that young women feel encouraged to pursue their studies in the direction that they dream of." - Annie Robin (Fósiles del Cosmos)


Image copyright: Annie Robin





"I started working in Gaia for my thesis in 2001 and never stopped since. I found a competitive but friendly environment, where people listen and care. I have now many responsibilities in CU8, the group that derives the Astrophysical Parameters for Gaia DR3. I provide simulations for the algorithms but I am also in the CU8 management team, and responsible for organizing the production of outreach material that will advertise the work of our group for Gaia DR3." - Rosanna Sordo


Image copyright: Rosanna Sordo



"I have been lucky to grow up in a country where female professors/scientists were not an exception, but the rule. My maths and physics teachers were female, and when I started astronomy we were 50/50 (and my cohort finished 5/1, with more woman than men). That showed me that men and women are at least equally capable of doing science, and so when I moved to the Netherlands, I did not feel I was at a disadvantage because of my gender, even though at the time in the Netherlands there were, in proportion very few female PhD students and even less female professors in Astronomy (1 in 10 or less). So I think it is important to believe in yourself and your abilities independent of gender. My experience (after interacting with female colleagues) is that women are more insecure (this holds for me too), which means we might need more reassurance, but it is important to be honest with ourselves. If you deep inside believe you are good and can do it, then accept that and go for it!" - Amina Helmi (Fósiles del Cosmos)


Image copyright: Amina Helmi




"I started to think seriously about being a scientist when I was 13, thanks to my Math teacher. She was a woman. I wanted to understand how the world worked, and be able to explain it. I don't particularly remember anyone that strongly discouraged me in pursuing this career, so maybe I was lucky. Most probably I got some veiled hints and I just ignored them. I persevered, even if a lot of times I was absolutely terrified of not measuring up. Still I am, terrified. I guess the bottom line from this is having a figure to look up to is important. Representation matters, as much as keeping on pursuing what you want, despite obstacles and your own fears. I really love the Gaia logo, I see a lot of myself in that girl looking at the stars. I should get a tattoo of it." - Giorgia Busso


Image copyright: Giorgia Busso


"Working on Gaia has been the most exciting adventure of my scientific life. This project is changing our view of many scientific topics, brings us into the future, and significantly contributes to the progress of science. I am especially proud of being part of the team that proposed and managed the project for years." - Antonella Vallenari (Fósiles del Cosmos)


Image credit: Gerald Bruneau / INAF





"I’m lucky enough to have the job I always wanted since I was 10, but I have to admit that being a woman in science is not always easy. I consider Gaia the best project I have ever worked on, and not only for the amazing results, but also because of the people I met on this journey. They made me feel part of this fantastic group with no ifs and buts. I would really like to encourage young girls who want to be scientists to follow their dreams. It might be difficult at times, but you can do it!" - Federica Spoto


Image copyright: Federica Spoto




The Gaia Science Team


The Gaia Science Team. From left to right: Carme Jordi, Sergei Klioner, Caroline Soubiran, Lennart Lindegren, François Mignard, Sofia Randich, Anthony Brown (Gaia DPAC chair), Timo Prusti (Gaia Project Scientist) and Nicholas Walton. (image credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC).


The Gaia Science Team (GST) is the science advisory body for the Gaia mission and meets several times a year to discuss scientific matters arising within the Gaia project. The Gaia Science Team consists of 3 female scientists and 4 male scientists and is complemented with the Project Scientist, who chairs the GST and the Gaia DPAC chair.


"One of my greatest satisfactions is to see younger women I worked with in their early career to be now leaders in their research field." - Caroline Soubiran (Fósiles del Cosmos)


The Gaia Benchmark Stars collaboration at work during the COVID confinement in March 2021. These eight women astronomers regularly meet in order update the sample of the best characterised stars which are used for calibrations. Image credit: Caroline Soubiran.


Reaching for the stars... the Gaia fairing logo. Let's hope the stars observed by the Gaia space telescope can inspire many young girls and women to choose a career in science. We hope our Gaia women can give them some extra inspiration. Image credit: ESA/Gaia


Credits: ESA/Gaia/DPAC, Tineke Roegiers, Orlagh Creevey, Antonella Vallenari, Annie Robin, Giorgia Busso, Rosanna Sordo, Mercedes Ramos, Chantal Panem, Gisella Clementini, Alessia Garofalo, Amina Helmi, Caroline Soubiran, Federica Spoto and Paula Jofré (Fosiles del Cosmos) and all women featured in the pictures and quotes.

[Published: 11/02/2022]



Image of the Week Archive


13/06 Gaia Data Release 3

10/06: MK classification of stars from BP/RP spectrophotometry across the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram

09/06: BP/RP low-resolution spectroscopy across the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram

27/05: Cepheids and their radial velocity curves

23/05: The Galaxy in your preferred colours

19/05: GaiaXPy 1.0.0 released, a tool for Gaia's BP/RP spectra users

11/05: Systemic proper motions of 73 galaxies in the Local group

28/03: Gaia query statistics

16/03: Gaia's first photo shooting of the James Webb Space Telescope

08/03: Gaia's women in science - coordination unit 8

25/02: Not only distances: what Gaia DR3 RR Lyrae stars will tell us about our Galaxy and beyond

11/02: Gaia's women in science

31/01: Astrometric orbit of the exoplanet-host star HD81040

12/01: The Local Bubble - source of our nearby stars

05/01: A Milky-Way relic of the formation of the Universe


23/12: Signal-to-Noise ratio for Gaia DR3 BP/RP mean spectra

22/12: The 7 October 2021 stellar occultation by the Neptunian system

01/12: Observation of a long-predicted new type of binary star

24/09: Astrometric microlensing effect in the Gaia16aye event

22/09: the power of the third dimension - the discovery of a gigantic cavity in space

16/09: An alternative Gaia sky chart

25/08: Gaia Photometric Science Alerts and Gravitational Wave Triggers

09/07: How Gaia unveils what stars are made of

23/06: Interviews with CU3

27/04: HIP 70674 Orbital solution resulting from Gaia DR3 processing

30/03: First transiting exoplanet by Gaia

26/03: Apophis' Yarkovsky acceleration improved through stellar occultation

26/02: Matching observations to sources for Gaia DR4


22/12: QSO emission lines in low-resolution BP/RP spectra

03/12: Gaia Early Data Release 3

29/10: Gaia EDR3 passbands

15/10: Star clusters are only the tip of the iceberg

04/09: Discovery of a year long superoutburst in a white dwarf binary

12/08: First calibrated XP spectra

22/07: Gaia and the size of the Solar System

16/07: Testing CDM and geometry-driven Milky Way rotation Curve Models

30/06: Gaia's impact on Solar system science

14/05: Machine-learning techniques reveal hundreds of open clusters in Gaia data

20/03: The chemical trace of Galactic stellar populations as seen by Gaia

09/01: Discovery of a new star cluster: Price-Whelan1

08/01: Largest ever seen gaseous structure in our Galaxy

20/12: The lost stars of the Hyades
06/12: Do we see a dark-matter like effect in globular clusters?
12/11: Hypervelocity star ejected from a supermassive black hole
17/09: Instrument Development Award
08/08: 30th anniversary of Hipparcos
17/07: Whitehead Eclipse Avoidance Manoeuvre
28/06: Following up on Gaia Solar System Objects
19/06: News from the Gaia Archive
29/05: Spectroscopic variability of emission lines stars with Gaia
24/05: Evidence of new magnetic transitions in late-type stars
03/05: Atmospheric dynamics of AGB stars revealed by Gaia
25/04: Geographic contributions to DPAC
22/04: omega Centauri's lost stars
18/04: 53rd ESLAB symposium "the Gaia universe"
18/02: A river of stars
21/12: Sonification of Gaia data
18/12: Gaia captures a rare FU Ori outburst
12/12: Changes in the DPAC Executive
26/11:New Very Low Mass dwarfs in Gaia data
19/11: Hypervelocity White Dwarfs in Gaia data
15/11: Hunting evolved carbon stars with Gaia RP spectra
13/11: Gaia catches the movement of the tiny galaxies surrounding the Milky Way
06/11: Secrets of the "wild duck" cluster revealed
12/10: 25 years since the initial GAIA proposal
09/10: 3rd Gaia DPAC Consortium Meeting
30/09: A new panoramic sky map of the Milky Way's Stellar Streams
25/09: Plausible home stars for interstellar object 'Oumuamua
11/09: Impressions from the IAU General Assembly
30/06: Asteroids in Gaia Data
14/06: Mapping and visualising Gaia DR2

25/04: In-depth stories on Gaia DR2

14/04: Gaia tops one trillion observations
16/03: Gaia DR2 Passbands
27/02: Triton observation campaign
11/02: Gaia Women In Science
29/01: Following-up on Gaia
19/12: 4th launch anniversary
24/11: Gaia-GOSA service
27/10: German Gaia stamp in the making
19/10: Hertzsprung-russell diagram using Gaia DR1
05/10: Updated prediction to the Triton occultation campaign
04/10: 1:1 Gaia model arrives at ESAC
31/08: Close stellar encounters from the first Gaia data release
16/08: Preliminary view of the Gaia sky in colour
07/07: Chariklo stellar occultation follow-up
24/04: Gaia reveals the composition of asteroids
20/04: Extra-galactic observations with Gaia
10/04: How faint are the faintest Gaia stars?
24/03: Pulsating stars to study Galactic structures
09/02: Known exoplanetary transits in Gaia data
31/01: Successful second DPAC Consortium Meeting
23/12: Interactive and statistical visualisation of Gaia DR1 with vaex
16/12: Standard uncertainties for the photometric data (in GDR1)
25/11: Signature of the rotation of the galactic bar uncovered
15/11: Successful first DR1 Workshop
27/10: Microlensing Follow-Up
21/10: Asteroid Occultation
16/09: First DR1 results
14/09: Pluto Stellar Occultation
15/06: Happy Birthday, DPAC!
10/06: 1000th run of the Initial Data Treatment system
04/05: Complementing Gaia observations of the densest sky regions
22/04: A window to Gaia - the focal plane
05/04: Hipparcos interactive data access tool
24/03: Gaia spots a sunspot
29/02: Gaia sees exploding stars next door
11/02: A new heart for the Gaia Object Generator
04/02: Searching for solar siblings with Gaia
28/01: Globular cluster colour-magnitude diagrams
21/01: Gaia resolving power estimated with Pluto and Charon
12/01: 100th First-Look Weekly Report
06/01: Gaia intersects a Perseid meteoroid
18/12: Tales of two clusters retold by Gaia
11/11: Lunar transit temperature plots
06/11: Gaia's sensors scan a lunar transit
03/11: Celebrity comet spotted among Gaia's stars
09/10: The SB2 stars as seen by Gaia's RVS
02/10: The colour of Gaia's eyes
24/09: Estimating distances from parallaxes
18/09: Gaia orbit reconstruction
31/07: Asteroids all around
17/07: Gaia satellite and amateur astronomers spot one in a billion star
03/07: Counting stars with Gaia
01/07: Avionics Model test bench arrives at ESOC
28/05: Short period/faint magnitude Cepheids in the Large Magellanic Cloud
19/05: Visualising Gaia Photometric Science Alerts
09/04: Gaia honours Einstein by observing his cross
02/04: 1 April - First Look Scientists play practical joke
05/03: RR Lyrae stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud as seen by Gaia
26/02: First Gaia BP/RP deblended spectra
19/02: 13 months of GBOT Gaia observations
12/02: Added Value Interface Portal for Gaia
04/02: Gaia's potential for the discovery of circumbinary planets
26/01: DIBs in three hot stars as seen by Gaia's RVS
15/01: The Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution
06/01: Close encounters of the stellar kind
12/12: Gaia detects microlensing event
05/12: Cat's Eye Nebula as seen by Gaia
01/12: BFOSC observation of Gaia at L2
24/11: Gaia spectra of six stars
13/11: Omega Centauri as seen by Gaia
02/10: RVS Data Processing
12/09: Gaia discovers first supernova
04/08: Gaia flag arrives at ESAC
29/07: Gaia handover
15/07: Eclipsing binaries
03/07: Asteroids at the "photo finish"
19/06: Calibration image III - Messier 51
05/06: First Gaia BP/RP and RVS spectra
02/06: Sky coverage of Gaia during commissioning
03/04: Gaia source detection
21/02: Sky-background false detections in the sky mapper
14/02: Gaia calibration images II
06/02: Gaia calibration image I
28/01: Gaia telescope light path
17/01: First star shines for Gaia
14/01: Radiation Campaign #4
06/01: Asteroid detection by Gaia
17/12: Gaia in the gantry
12/12: The sky in G magnitude
05/12: Pre-launch release of spectrophotometric standard stars
28/11: From one to one billion pixels
21/11: The Hipparcos all-sky map
15/10: Gaia Sunshield Deployment Test
08/10: Initial Gaia Source List
17/09: CU1 Operations Workshop
11/09: Apsis
26/08: Gaia arrival in French Guiana
20/08: Gaia cartoons
11/07: Model Soyuz Fregat video
01/07: Acoustic Testing
21/06: SOVT
03/06: CU4 meeting #15
04/04: DPCC (CNES) 
26/03: Gaia artist impression 
11/02: Gaia payload testing  
04/01: Space flyby with Gaia-like data
10/12: DPAC OR#2. Testing with Planck
05/11: Galaxy detection with Gaia
09/10: Plot of part of the GUMS-10 catalogue
23/07: "Gaia" meets at Gaia
29/06: The Sky as seen by Gaia
31/05: Panorama of BAM clean room
29/03: GREAT school results
12/03: Scanning-law movie
21/02: Astrometric microlensing and Gaia
03/02: BAM with PMTS
12/01: FPA with all the CCDs and WFSs
14/12: Deployable sunshield
10/11: Earth Trojan search
21/10: First Soyuz liftoff from the French Guiana
20/09: Fast 2D image reconstruction algorithm
05/09: RVS OMA
10/08: 3D distribution of the Gaia catalogue
13/07: Dynamical Attitude Model
22/06: Gaia's view of open clusters
27/05: Accuracy of the stellar transverse velocity
13/05: Vibration test of BAM mirrors
18/04: L. Lindegren, Dr. Honoris Causa of the Observatory of Paris
19/01: Detectability of stars close to Jupiter
05/01: Delivery of the WFS flight models
21/12: The 100th member of CU3
17/11: Nano-JASMINE and AGIS
27/10: Eclipsing binary light curves fitted with DPAC code
13/10: Gaia broad band photometry
28/09: Measuring stellar parameters and interstellar extinction
14/09: M1 mirror
27/08: Quest for the Sun's siblings
Please note: Entries from the period 2003-2010 are available in this PDF document.