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Vera Rubin, Pioneer of Dark Matter Discovery, Dies at 88

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Vera Rubin, Pioneer of Dark Matter Discovery, Dies at 88
From L to R: Anne Kinney, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Vera Rubin, Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institute of Washington; Nancy Grace Roman Retired NASA Goddard; Kerri Cahoy, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; Randi Ludwig. University of Texas, Austin, Texas. Photo taken during the NASA Sponsors Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009 Conference, held at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Inn and Conference Center, Adelphi, Md, October 21-23 2009

Vera Rubin, a scientist who contributed significantly to understanding dark matter, dies at 88, her son reports.

Allan Rubin, Princeton University professor of Geosciences, says his mother Vera died on Sunday evening due to natural causes. While Vera is a native of Philadelphia, she had spent her final years in New Jersey in the Princeton area to be specific.

Vera was often credited to be the discoverer of dark matter. She first thought that this elusive material exists because she noticed that galaxies were not quite following the predicted models of rotation in her observations.

It led her to believe there is some unknown force at work, and thus her research into the material begun. Since then thanks to Vera’s pioneering, we have estimated that dark matter makes up 27 percent of the universe, while “normal” everyday matter only comprises 5 percent.

Other than this, scientists know little else.

Vera Rubin, Observer of more than 200 Galaxies, Started Young

As for Vera’s achievements, there were plenty. President Bill Clinton himself presented her with a National Medal of Science in 1993, among other awards in accolades for her work in observational cosmology. Vera is also one of the few female astronomers elected in the National Academy of Sciences.

Her love for science stemmed early. As a young girl, she is already interested in astronomy, thanks in part to her father Philip Cooper, who was an electrical engineer.

Cooper built a telescope for her and from time to time brought her to gatherings attended by amateur astronomers as she eventually became one herself. In her lifetime, she was said to have observed and examined over 200 galaxies.

Truly, Vera Rubin is a significant loss to the scientific and astronomic community. In the words of Matthew Scott, Carnegie Institution President, she was a “national treasure” and a “wonderful role model” for aspiring scientists.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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