A First: National U.S. Observatory Named for a Female Astronomer
"Each one of you can change the world, for you are made of star stuff, and you are connected to the universe."
—Vera Rubin, graduation address to University of California, Berkeley class of 1996
For the first time, a national U.S. observatory has been named for a woman astronomer. Vera Rubin (1928–2016) is best known for finding evidence of dark matter. In 1977, she determined that about 90% of the mass in the universe is of unknown origin and can't be seen, but it can be detected by how it distorts the behavior and motion of matter that can be seen like planets, stars and galaxies. This portrait of Rubin with some of her collection of globes—along with the spectrograph she used—is in our National Air and Space Museum. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory will work to advance what we know about dark matter.
Learn more about the news and Rubin's work from Smithsonian Magazine, and read about Rubin in our book, Smithsonian American Women: Remarkable Objects and Stories of Strength, Ingenuity, and Vision from the National Collection.
Vera Rubin among the many globes she collected. Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.