In search of exo-moons
Fernando Ballesteros, researcher at the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Valencia
I work at the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Valencia, and for ten years I was the head of instrumentation at the Observatory of Aras de los Olmos. Currently, my team and I are using data from the Kepler space telescope to look for signs of exo-moons, i.e., moons orbiting exoplanets. I am also working on a more biological branch to study the origin of life, looking at the genomes of 30,000 organisms and looking for phase transitions, which are moments when the genome starts to mutate in a different way.
When I am in the office, the usual routine involves working on the computer using the Python programming tool. In Aras de los Olmos it is quite different, we work with wrenches and hammers, and we also work at night, so we have our own version of jet lag, «astrolag».
I think the general public is interested in science as a concept, and especially in science that has a practical application for them, while the more pure sciences are not so relevant. However, in astronomy we are a little bit luckier, because astronomy has images that are beautiful, and that also gives it a certain kind of interest. There are amateur astronomers, amateur meteorologists, but there are no amateur particle physicists. I think popularisation is the best way to bring us closer to the general public. For the society of the future, it is important to go to high schools to encourage vocations and create interest in science.
My favourite project is always the most recent one, although I also really enjoyed my dissertation, where I designed part of a space telescope.
Interview and text editing: Marta Gutiérrez and Inés Pérez Peris