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25th of March 2021
Women's History Month: Vera Rubin
by Chenoa Tremblay
Our Universe contains only a small fraction of known matter. The rest is made up of something we call “dark matter”. Vera Rubin was one of the first pioneers in this fields by uncovering the discrepancy between the predicted motion of galaxies and their observed motions. This phenomenon became known as the “galaxy rotation problem” and represented our first evidence of this “dark matter”. For all of the many contributions to understanding the motions of galaxies, she has received the Bruce Medal, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the National Medal of Science, among many others. Her legacy paved the way for many women astronomers in the field and provided a “guiding light” for other women who wished to be a mother and have a career.

Inspired by Maria Mitchell, Vera started her undergraduate at Vassar College and followed up with a masters at Cornell University in 1951. During her graduate studies she studied the motion of 109 galaxies and made the first observations of deviations in how galaxies move apart from each other. She followed up with a PhD at Georgetown University with a degree in Astronomy at the age of 23. In the following years of her career she found the first observational evidence that galaxies clumped together instead of being randomly distributed, initially proposed by Fritz Zwicky in the 1930s, and provided the first evidence of dark matter. To learn more about Vera Rubin, check out the Popular Science article In memory of Vera Rubin, the woman the Nobel Prize forgot. (Image credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/American Institute of Physics/Science Photo Library)

March is Women's History Month and this week we are celebrating the careers of women in science.

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