She's an Astronomer: Aida Berges


Entrevista de Aida en español

Aida Berges (“lovethetropics“) lives in Puerto Rico with her husband and children. Originally from the Dominican Republic, she studied there in an all girl Catholic school (Colegio del Apostolado) where she was inspired by her her history teacher (Rosa Maria Reyes Feriz). After graduation she started a university degree in Law where Supreme Court Judge Ana Rosa Berges Dreyfuss (a family member) became a beloved teacher. After finishing her degree in English at a different university, she worked various secretarial jobs and as a translator. She moved to Puerto Rico to live with her eldest brother and his wife, and there met husband (Benito Garcia Mendez). Her main job for the last almost 30 years has been as a dedicated wife and mother to children Benny and Laura (now grown; Benny works in retail and Laura is finishing her Masters’s degree in Psychology). The family spent most of this time in Puerto Rico, except for a 7 year spell in New Jersey where the children were born. Aida loves to read history, science fiction and fantasy.  She has 3 dogs and one cat.  And she loves the ocean, especially going to the beach or just watching the waves.

  • How did you first hear about Galaxy Zoo?

I was reading CNN online and found an article describing how a very young teacher from the Netherlands had found a new kind of object and it was called Hanny’s Voorwerp.  It was an article to celebrate the first year of Galaxy Zoo.  I went to Galaxy Zoo immediately and my life changed forever…It was like coming home for me.

  • What has been your main involvement in the Galaxy Zoo project?

I am part of the Irregulars Project and also the Hyper-Velocity Stars Project (and check out their blog).  In the Irregulars Project I look for irregulars galaxies and send them to Richard Proctor to be integrated into the hunt.  We now have more than 17,000 irregulars and the numbers keep growing every day. And we still need the help of the Zooites with their clicks on the Irregular Hunt (check out the Irregulars Project forum discussion).   I send Richard between 100 and 500 possible irregulars every week. I also worked on the three Pea hunts, the Mergers hunt, the Voorwerpjes hunt and the Supernova hunt. And I found an unusual green object ages ago which has been dubbed Aida’s disturbed green mystery object and has been an object of the day (OOTD). We still don’t know what it is.

Both major projects I’m involved have been pure coincidence or serendipity.  With the Irregulars Project I was the one getting the galaxies for the hunt and when we decided to write the first paper about astronomy without being astronomers I was included.  I classified by myself 24,000 galaxies to clean the sample from spirals, elliptical galaxies, artifacts and unidentifiable blobs.  Then classified 12,000 more!

For the HVSs project it was pure coincidence that I found two in about five minutes.  I had to Google the term Hyper-velocity Stars because I had no idea they existed.  Posted it on the newbies thread and I had to post an “Object of the Day” (OOTD on High Velocity Stars) and Thomas Jennings gave me the idea to post the known HVSs. Zookeeper Jordan read the OOTD and got so excited a group of fearless zooites decided to look for more, I am one of them…we are almost ready to post the first entry on a new thread for them on Galaxy Zoo. So far there are only 16 or 17 known HVSs.  But we are still very optimist we can find more of them even if it is for sheer numbers. (We zooites are bigger than the Swiss Army.)

  • What do you like most about being involved in Galaxy Zoo?
What I like the most is helping scientists discover new things and being there when that happens. And the people at the Zoo are wonderful, starting with the Moderators, Zookeepers and Zooites.  For me it feels like coming home.
  • What do you think is the most interesting astronomical question Galaxy Zoo will help to solve?
With every question we answer we get ten new questions. First I would like to know the place of the Irregular Galaxies in the universe. Then would like to know if there are other Voorwerpen and would like to know how the Voorwerpje saga ends. And how the spiderweb ring galaxies (Eds note: Aida’s name for ring galaxies with very low surface brightness extended rings like this one) are formed. They are the most beautiful galaxies for me. And how the shockwave ring galaxies are formed too. So many questions, so little coffee.

  • How/when did you first get interested in Astronomy?
When I was young I lived in the country so the moon and stars were spectacular…ever since I first saw the stars I have been interested.  I started to surf the internet because I wanted to read everything I could about astronomy.
  • What (if any) do you think are the main barriers to women’s involvement in Astronomy?
Well, I come from a third world country, the Dominican Republic.  In my time girls were supposed to marry young and be housewives, but now I see that the universities there are full of women studying and that makes me so proud. There are no barriers now for us, maybe just a few reluctant men, but we are winning.

  • Do you have any particular role models in Astronomy?

I would have to say that the Zookeepers are my role models because before getting involved on Galaxy Zoo I didn’t know any astronomers. Chris Lintott and Jordan Raddick specially because we are doing the Irregulars Project together. And Jordan Raddick is double because he is helping us with the HVSs. And Bill Keel (NGC3314), I am helping him get more possible Voorwepjes. Thomas Jennings started the Newbies thread and has gone back to college to study Astronomy.  That’s what I call commitment. The person who inspired me to love science in general was my sister Adolfina.  She is a medical doctor with specialties in Pediatrics and Hematology.  She and her husband, who is also a hematologist discovered an element in the blood unknown until they found it.  She is also the best and most loving sister anyone can have.

I would also like to include thanks to my parents Rafael Bergés Lara and Thelma García de Bergés, and my Uncle Manuel Bergés Lara and Aunt Carmen

Entrevista de Aida en español

This post is part of the ongoing She’s an Astronomer series on the Galaxy Zoo Blog is support of the IYA2009 cornerstone project of the same name (She’s an Astronomer). We are listed on the She’s an Astronomer website in their Profiles. This is the 7th post of the series. So far we have interviewed

  • Hanny Van Arkel (Galaxy Zoo volunteer and finder of Hanny’s Voorwerp).
  • Dr. Vardha Nicola Bennert (researcher at UCSB involved in Hanny’s Voorwerp followup and the “peas” project).
  • Alice Sheppard (Galaxy Zoo volunteer and forum moderator).
  • Carie Cardamone (graduate student at Yale who lead the Peas paper).
  • Gemma Couglin (“fluffyporcupine”, Galaxy Zoo volunteer and forum moderator).
  • Dr. Kate Land (original Galaxy Zoo team member and first-author of the first Galaxy Zoo scientific publication; now working in the financial world).

Still to come in the series – more Galaxy Zoo volunteers and researchers. We’re not done yet!

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About karenlmasters

Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Haverford College, USA. Project Scientist for Galaxy Zoo. Spokesperson for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Busy having fun with astronomy!

25 responses to “She's an Astronomer: Aida Berges”

  1. Infinity says :

    Great Aida, and thanks for all the amazing things you do for the Zoo and for being such a friendly member of out little community 🙂

  2. yolanda del giudice says :

    Hola Aida, gracias por compartir tu hermoso proyecto
    de vida,te conosco desde niña, pero no sabia nada
    de ti, desde hace muchos años, creia que solo eras
    ama de casa y me da mucho gusto que estes involucrada
    en algo tan beneficioso en lo del zoo y te deseo muchos exitos, en cualquier proyecto de vida que te haga sentir realizada, sigue adelante, te quiero mucho,igual quiero a muchos de tu familia, yo diria que a todos los Berges Lara, como a los Garcia Ramos me unen lazos afectuosos desde Doña Angustia. con cariño yolandita.

  3. Alice says :

    Aida, this is wonderful. It gives me a real lift to hear that over a generation, women have risen from being supposed to marry young from going to university.

    And it’s wonderful having you on the forum too – if anything weird and fascinating turns up, you can bet Aida’s going to be right in the middle of it! 😀

    Great interview, I really enjoyed reading it, congratulations 🙂

  4. Thomas says :

    Amazing Aida. You have worked so hard for all the various projects.

    You are an asset to Galaxy Zoo.

  5. Hanny says :

    Lovely Aida, just lovely. 😉

  6. Lidia Cintron says :

    Preciosa entrevista! Enhorabuena por tus logros.

  7. Adrianus V says :

    Great to read your story, about the various things you do for Galaxy Zoo. Thanx! 🙂

  8. Héctor Jiménez says :

    Congratulations Aida, I am very proud of your accomplishments in such a fascinating research field and of being your friend. Keep doing your exceptional work which gives you satisfaction beyond material riches and possessions…

  9. Curtis W. Garrett says :

    All that and she’s a great person too.
    I have had the pleasure of talking to Aida many times. And I will say that she is everything this article says. Hugs and Kisses, Aida.

  10. Caro says :

    Well done Aida. I hope we get to meet you in person one day.

  11. oswego9050 says :

    Congratulations on a great interview!!! And thanks again for always being available with your help and advice. “HUGS!”

  12. jules says :

    Lovely interview from a lovely person! Well done Aida the Huntress. 🙂

  13. Lovethetropics says :

    Thank you so much my friends for your posts. Hugs!
    Yolandita, muchas gracias querida amiga de siempre. Un abrazo!

  14. Lovethetropics says :

    Gracias Lidia, siempre te recuerdo con mucho cariño. Abrazos

  15. elizatbeth says :

    Wonderful interview Aida!!

  16. Dana says :

    How wonderful Aida! I miss your work but I’m not greedy and these folks seem very lucky and fortunate to have you. You’re beautiful Lady!

  17. zeus2007 says :

    Congratulations Aida! You’re one of a kind. Thanks for all the help you offer us and for simply one of the nicest people I’ve had the honour to cross words with. You are amazing.

  18. Jo says :

    That was a really lovely interview Aida, well done!

  19. Belkis says :

    Felicidades Aida:
    Muy linda entrevista! Siempre resulta de mucha alegria conocer los logros de amigos de juventud.
    Muchos exitos

  20. Lovethetropics says :

    Muchísimas gracias Belkis y espero verte pronto. Un abrazo.


  21. june says :

    I have heard sun spots have disappeared and the magnetic sheil ithey provide has disappeared, what’s up? do you know?

  22. june says :

    oops! I meant to write magnetic sheild

  23. Lovethetropics says :

    Hello June and thank you for posting here but I have not heard much about sunspots lately or magnetic shields. Maybe you should ask on the Galaxy Zoo Forum, we have the best astronomers in the world.

  24. Benito Garcia Mendez says :

    I am proud of Aida my wife of 30 years. She is the most intelligent person I know. You can ask her any question on any topic and she always has a reply that is accurate. God bless her and grant her a long life. May be she someday will travel the galaxies. She has no limits when she puts it on her to do list.


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