fly apart. Because they stay intact, a large amount of unseen mass must beholding them together. Rubin’s calculations showed that galaxies must contain at least five to ten times as much “dark matter” as ordinary matter. Her results were confirmed over subsequent decades and became the first persuasive results supporting the theory of dark matter, initially proposed by Fritz Zwicky in the 1930’s.
In 1996, Vera Rubin received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the second woman to be so honored, 168 years after Caroline Hershel received the Medal in 1828.
Vera Rubin died on December 25, 2016 of complications associated with dementia.
The president of the Carnegie Institution called her a “national treasure”. During Rubin’s life she paved the way for women as a “guiding light” to those who wished to have families and careers in astronomy. She encouraged girls interested in investigating the universe to pursue their dreams, and was a force for greater recognition of women in the sciences and for scientific literacy.
Although Vera never received the Noble Prize, on December 20, 2019 the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope was renamed the National Science Foundation Vera C. Rubin Observatory in recognition of Rubin’s contributions to the study of dark matter and her outspoken advocacy for the equal treatment and representation of women in science. The observatory will be on a mountain in Cerro Pachon, Chile and focus on the study of dark matter and dark energy.
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