Monday, June 1, 2015

Vera Rubin: Ground Breaking Belle

We want to honor one of our biggest astronomy heroes as a part of the trending hashtag #ThankYouSTEMWomen. Vera Rubin, astronomer emeritus at Carnegie's DTM, is ground breaking in multiple ways: 
  • first woman astronomer to officially observe at Palomar in 1965
  • she proposed the idea of galaxy clusters in her PhD thesis
  • first woman to win the RAS Gold medal since Caroline Herschel in 1828
  • the Rubin-Ford effect is jointly named after her, and 
  • she made substantial contributions to the galaxy rotation problem name just a few!

With the help of Natasha Metzler in the Media Office at the Carnegie Institution for Science and Shaun Hardy, Carnegie's librarian for DTM and the Geophysical Laboratory, we have uncovered a very rare photo of Vera. As far as we can tell, this photo has never been published on the internet before *today*.

Here is Vera Rubin on her ground breaking observing run at Palomar in December 1965:

She is standing on the dome of the 200" telescope with Polish astronomer Konrad Rudnicki, who was a senior research fellow at Palomar at the time. That night Rubin observed on the 48" Schmidt telescope, the first woman to officially observe under her own name as an astronomer at Palomar Observatory, which at the time was jointly operated between Caltech and Carnegie.

Rubin has always been a role model for women in astronomy, and encouraged everyone to explore the sciences. In 1996, she told the Berkeley graduating class: “Each one of you can change the world, for you are made of star stuff, and you are connected to the universe.”

Thank you, Vera Rubin.

1 comment:

  1. It's fun to see this old picture, even if it looks like she might not have had a good night that night! Vera was the first female astronomer I met, and has had a tremendous positive influence on my career. I loved to hear her story of going to observe at the 200-inch Telescope and putting a little stick figure with a dress on the only bathroom in the dome, which normally said "men" on the door. I knew I was lucky, as a graduate student using the 200-inch for the bulk of my thesis, that she had been a pioneer.