"Neptune was incredible, so blue with white clouds. It was the most beautiful picture; I couldn't stop looking at it."

With her love for space exploration ripened, Castillo borrowed her mom's art tools and started to paint planets. Ultimately, she wanted to know what makes a planet tick.

"I always liked rocks, fossils and minerals," she says. "I wanted to learn everything about planets and their interiors, how they formed and what they are made of."

In 1998 she earned a master's in geology from the University of Nantes, and in 2002 a Ph.D. in seismology from the University of Rennes, also in France.

While in college, she eagerly followed NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter. What impressed her most were the images of icy moons the spacecraft sent home.

Encountering Iapetus

At JPL, Castillo has been focusing on her favorite moon, Iapetus. Analyzing information collected by Cassini, she is working on unveiling how old the mysterious moon is, the reason behind its slow rotation and the origin of the peculiar ridge that crosses it. The ridge is about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) high and 150 kilometers (93 miles) wide.

"This ridge is the most amazing feature I have had a chance to work on so far," she says. "Iapetus is so grand to offer us so many puzzles to solve."

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