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Vera Rubin, Astronomer Who Confirmed Dark Matter Existence, Dies At 88

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Vera Rubin, the famous U.S. astronomer who made a pioneering contribution to the study of dark matter by tendering direct evidence of its existence in the universe, died on Dec. 25 at a Princeton hospital. She was 88.

According to her son Allan Rubin, the astronomer had problems of dementia.

Revered for her contribution in "black matter" studies, Rubin had the passion for space physics right from the childhood. As a girl, Rubin even built a telescope using a cardboard tube.

Nobel Prize Aspirant

The bulk of her career was spent at the Carnegie Institution in Washington where she made discoveries of many unknown galaxies. Rubin was a contender for the Nobel Prize, though it never came.

Rubin made her big discoveries in conjunction with physicist W. Kent Ford. The dark matter remained unknown among stars in distant galaxies until Rubin unveiled them in the 1970s. The discovery of black matter revolutionized the way scientists perceived and measured universe.

Considered the most significant and fundamental advances in astronomy during the 20th century, dark matter's discovery has been commented upon by University of Washington's astronomer Emily Levesque.

"The ongoing effort to understand the role of dark matter has basically spawned entire subfields within astrophysics and particle physics."

Dark Matter Confirmation

Rubin used rotations of galaxies to present the first direct evidence of dark matter in the 1970s while working at the Carnegie Institution in Washington.

Galaxies do not rotate in a predicted manner, sensed Rubin and perceived a dragging force at work — the dark matter. In her long career, Rubin examined more than 200 galaxies.

Rubin showed that material at galaxies' edges rotated at the same rate as material at the center. It negated a law of physics that states a higher mass in the center, with dust, stars, and gas, means it will move faster than the edge, where mass is less.

Though dark matter cannot be observed directly, it makes up 84 percent of the universe compared to 5 percent of the normal observable matter.

Dark matter to the cosmos is like air to human beings. It is pervasive, essential, yet unseen.

Early Life Of Vera Rubin

As mentioned, Rubin showed a keen interest in astronomy as a young girl and was encouraged by Philip Cooper, her father, who was an electrical engineer. He also introduced her to many amateur astronomers in various meetings.

In 1948, she graduated from Vassar College with astronomy as the main subject. Rubin took her doctorate from Georgetown University and spent a few years there teaching before joining the Carnegie Institution in Washington.

Rubin was the second female astronomer elected to the National Academy of Sciences. President Bill Clinton bestowed Rubin the National Medal of Science in 1993 "for her pioneering research programs in observational cosmology."

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