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Meet the woman who discovered a whole new type of galaxy

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Skip to main content Explore. National Geographic. This iconic Hubble image of the spiral galaxy NGC is suffused with detail—bright blue young stars, the dust lanes spiralling around the bright nucleus, distant galaxies shining through. Knezek WIYN. Star birth and star death create cosmic havoc in a panorama of the Carina Nebula assembled from multiple Hubble images.

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This phenomenon became known as the galaxy rotation problem , and was evidence of the existence of dark matter. Her legacy was described by The New York Times as "ushering in a Copernican -scale change" in cosmological theory. Beginning her academic career as the sole undergraduate in astronomy at Vassar College , Rubin went on to graduate studies at Cornell University and Georgetown University , where she observed deviations from Hubble flow in galaxies and provided evidence for the existence of galactic superclusters.

Rubin spent her life advocating for women in science and was known for her mentorship of aspiring female astronomers. Her data provided some of the first evidence for dark matter , which had been theorized by Fritz Zwicky in the s. She was honored throughout her career for her achievements, and received the Bruce Medal , the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society , and the National Medal of Science , among others.

Rubin Observatory Rubin Observatory. She was the younger of two sisters. The Coopers moved to Washington, D. Rubin was inspired to pursue an undergraduate education at Vassar College — then an all-women's school — because Maria Mitchell had been a professor there. She enrolled at Cornell University , and earned a master's degree in This information and the data she discovered was immensely controversial, and after fighting to be allowed to present her work at the American Astronomical Society despite being pregnant, she was summarily rejected and the paper forgotten.

Rubin studied for her Ph. Rubin held various academic positions for the next eleven years. She served for a year as an Instructor of Mathematics and Physics at Montgomery College , then worked from to at Georgetown University , as a research associate astronomer, lecturer — , and finally, assistant professor of astronomy — In , Rubin began a year-long collaboration with Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge , during which she made her first observations of the rotation of galaxies at the McDonald Observatory 's inch telescope.

At the Carnegie Institution, Rubin began work related to her controversial thesis regarding galaxy clusters [18] with Ford, making hundreds of observations using Ford's image-tube spectrograph. Wishing to avoid controversial areas of astronomy, including quasars and galactic motion, Rubin began to study the rotation and outer reaches of galaxies, an interest sparked by her collaboration with the Burbidges.

Rubin's calculations showed that galaxies must contain at least five to ten times as much dark matter as ordinary matter. Another area of interest for Rubin was the phenomenon of counter-rotation in galaxies.

Her discovery that some gas and stars moved in the opposite direction to the rotation of the rest of the galaxy challenged the prevailing theory that all of the material in a galaxy moved in the same direction, and provided the first evidence for galaxy mergers and the process by which galaxies initially formed. Rubin's perspective on the history of the work on galaxy movements was presented in a review, "One Hundred Years of Rotating Galaxies," for the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in This was an adaptation of the lecture she gave in upon receiving the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the second woman to be so honored, years after Caroline Herschel received the Medal in When Rubin was elected to the National Academy of Science, she became the second woman astronomer in its ranks, after her colleague Margaret Burbidge.

Rebecca Oppenheimer also recalled Rubin's mentorship as important to her early career. Rubin died on the night of December 25, of complications associated with dementia. Rubin was featured in an animated segment of the 13th and final episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

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. Vera Rubin was married to Robert Rubin from until his death in Geological Survey; Judith Young — , an astronomer at the University of Massachusetts ; Karl born , a mathematician at the University of California at Irvine ; and Allan born , a geologist at Princeton University.

Motivated by her own battle to gain credibility as a woman in a field dominated by male astronomers, Rubin encouraged girls interested in investigating the universe to pursue their dreams. She faced discouraging comments on her choice of study throughout her life, but persevered, supported by family and colleagues.

She said that despite her struggles with the NAS, she continued to be dissatisfied with the number of women who are elected each year, and called it "the saddest part of [her] life". In an interview, she stated: "In my own life, my science and my religion are separate. I'm Jewish, and so religion to me is a kind of moral code and a kind of history. I try to do my science in a moral way, and, I believe that, ideally, science should be looked upon as something that helps us understand our role in the universe.

The following are a small selection of articles selected by the scientists and historians of the CWP project Contributions of th Century Women to Physics , as being representative of her most important writings; Rubin published over scientific papers. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the anthropologist, see Vera D. American astronomer. Philadelphia , Pennsylvania. Princeton , New Jersey. Early universe.

Subject history. Discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation. Religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory. The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, Nature Astronomy. Bibcode : NatAs The Observatory. June Bibcode : Obs NPR News. Retrieved January 17, Retrieved December 29, Retrieved December 30, The Attic. Retrieved November 5, Washington Post. Retrieved July 7, Astronomy Magazine. Retrieved December 26, The Bruce Medalists. Sonoma State University. Retrieved July 6, National Geographic.

Retrieved December 28, Brain Pickings. Women in Aviation and Space History. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Archived from the original on April 24, Carnegie Institution: Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.

Popular Science. Retrieved October 23, The Gruber Foundation. DTM Carnegie Science. A Dictionary of Astronomy 2nd, revised ed. See also the publishers online entry. February 28, Rubin: Pioneering American astronomer — ". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Dark Matter. William Morrow. Carnegie Science. December 26, Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs. Principles of Physical Cosmology. Princeton University Press. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Bibcode : PASP.. Retrieved May 1, New York Times. Retrieved January 4, February 2, Bibcode : Natur.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Associated Press. Archived from the original on December 26,

Meet the woman who discovered a whole new type of galaxy

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This phenomenon became known as the galaxy rotation problem , and was evidence of the existence of dark matter. Her legacy was described by The New York Times as "ushering in a Copernican -scale change" in cosmological theory. Beginning her academic career as the sole undergraduate in astronomy at Vassar College , Rubin went on to graduate studies at Cornell University and Georgetown University , where she observed deviations from Hubble flow in galaxies and provided evidence for the existence of galactic superclusters. Rubin spent her life advocating for women in science and was known for her mentorship of aspiring female astronomers.

National Geographic: Meet the woman who discovered a whole new type of galaxy

Little did she know that thanks to her scientific skills, a galaxy sitting million light-years from Earth would one day bear her name. She immediately dived into reading about physics and became obsessed with understanding the cosmos. But she encountered obstacles when she chose to do undergraduate studies in physics.

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Little did she know that thanks to her scientific skills, a galaxy sitting light-years from Earth would one day bear her name.

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