Galaxy hunter by night


Meet Maria Jose Marquez, one of many behind the Meteosat Third Generation mission


As we gear up for the end-of-the-year launch of the first of the Meteosat Third Generation satellites, we’re shining a spotlight on the experts who are making this mission happen.

Last Updated

01 November 2023

Published on

14 November 2022

During the day, Maria Jose Marquez looks at the Earth. At night, she looks at the stars.

Maria Jose Marquez
Maria Jose Marquez

But don’t mistake her for a casual star-gazer. Over the course of nights spanning six years, Marquez designed a system that makes it possible to discover new galaxies. The culmination of doctoral work that applies artificial intelligence concepts to astrophysics, the system she created pores through massive amounts – terabytes – of data in order to identify regions of space that might contain galaxies. By reprocessing data from particularly promising spots, Marquez’s system is able to identify new galaxies and specify certain characteristics about them, including their distance from Earth and lifetime.

“The beautiful part about doing such a complex PhD,” she said, “was that, in the end, I could say, ‘Hey, you forgot this galaxy here!’”

The path to her doctoral work began with a spark of curiosity that she discovered through her work at EUMETSAT. As Quality Assurance Manager, Marquez works as a benevolent detective, collaborating with colleagues in the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) programme to ensure that the ground segment runs effectively.

The MTG ground segment comprises antennas at four ground stations – two in Italy, one in Switzerland, and one in Romania – used to receive Earth observation data. These antennas are also essential for the flight operations team to adjust the satellites’ path and instruments in response to the satellites’ health.

Deep in preparation for the end-of-the-year launch of the first Meteosat Third Generation satellite, MTG-I1, Marquez is hard at work helping to ensure that when the satellite is actually in orbit, everything will work as expected. You might find her inspecting new hardware, the ground stations, and their antennas, or working hand-in-hand with colleagues as they test the entire ground system. This might take her to the Technical Infrastructure Building, a EUMETSAT data processing facility, where she can be found accompanying an infrastructure engineer as the engineer installs new computer hardware. Or you might spot her peering down into the dish of an antenna at the ground station in Leuk, Switzerland, checking to make sure the paint is intact.

What motivates Marquez is the understanding of how these tasks contribute to the greater goals of the Meteosat Third Generation mission to improve the monitoring and forecasting of severe weather and tracking long-term climate change.

“We are changing the world by learning from the planet,” she said. “And we are doing this for the good of humanity. I know that this is very idealistic but it can be mapped to the practical, daily activities I do with my team. For me, this is a very strong source of inspiration.”


Sarah Puschmann