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Jewish astronomer becomes first woman to have US observatory named after her

Vera Rubin received numerous honors, such as the National Medal of Science, and was a vocal advocate for women’s rights in the sciences.

Vera Rubin. Source: American Museum of Natural History.
Vera Rubin. Source: American Museum of Natural History.

The National Science Foundation announced earlier this month that the first national U.S. observatory to be named after a female astronomer will honor Jewish scientist Vera Rubin.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Cerro Pachón, Chile, will be renamed the NSF Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

Science operations at the facility will begin in 2020.

Rubin, who died in 2016 at the age of 88, is most well-known for discovering evidence of dark matter.

The observatory renaming recognizes her role in better understanding dark matter and the study of dark energy will be one of the facility’s main research topics, along with taking an inventory of the solar system, exploring the transient optical sky and mapping the Milky Way.

Paul Dabbar, Department of Energy undersecretary for science, said Rubin’s life achievements as a scientist “remain a model for all those seeking to satisfy humanity’s unceasing curiosity about our universe.”

“We are deeply honored to have the observatory named after Vera Rubin,” said Steve Kahn, director of the Rubin Observatory. “Through her discovery of dark matter, Vera made one of the most important contributions to science in the past century—not only for astronomy, but also for fundamental physics. When construction is completed, the Rubin Observatory will build on her pioneering work to dramatically improve our understanding of the universe on many different scales.”

Rubin received numerous honors during her life, such as the National Medal of Science, and was a vocal advocate for women’s rights in the sciences. She is also recognized for paving the way for other women in astronomy after she faced gender bias at the start of her career.

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