First Mexican to Preside Over the International Astronomical Union

By Dania Vargas Austryjak

In favor of science and astronomy.

Dr. Silvia Torres-Peimbert has dedicated most of her life to her passion, the study of celestial objects, astronomy. And starting on august 14 she will become the head of the Paris-based International Astronomical Union (IAU), becoming the first Mexican, and second woman and Latin-American person to lead this group.



The honorary position lasts three years and carries certain responsibilities, including strengthening astronomy at every level, in every country; promoting women’s participation in astronomy-related activities; the organization of the International Congress as well as approximately 9 themed symposia a year.



Besides these activities, the union coordinates, along with other astronomers, the unification of criteria, units and nomenclature to make sure everyone is on the same page and can speak the same language, regardless of the country. This group also engages in the selection and definition of terms such as “planet” and many other celestial bodies' names.


Celestial Fireworks

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team

“Scientific research satisfies the curiosity of some, but it also develops knowledge and technology that becomes useful and sometimes necessary in people’s practical aspects”, she told Spanish daily, El País in response to the calls for increased funding for astronomical research.



Torres-Peimbert, the first woman born in Mexico to obtain a Ph.D. in astronomy, also emphasized the need to keep motivating young people into scientific studies. She also stated that “in Mexico astronomy is very serious and very good, although we lack large instruments.”

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