Vera Rubin, working with a spectrograph designed by Kent Ford, at the business end of the 2.1-metre telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Image: NSF’s Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/KPNO/AURA
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, being built to probe the nature of dark matter and dark energy, has been renamed the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, or VRO, in honour of the late Carnegie astronomer whose studies of galactic rotation confirmed the existence of dark matter.
“Vera challenged conventional thinking and transformed our understanding of the universe,” said Carnegie Science President Eric D. Isaacs. “We are proud that this next-generation observatory will be named in recognition of her contributions 50 years after she and her Carnegie colleague Kent Ford first published their landmark work on the rotation curves of galaxies, providing clear evidence for the existence of dark matter.”
Rubin measured the angular rotation of stars in spiral galaxies, expecting velocities to drop off as one moved farther from the core. Instead, the spectra indicated the velocities did not change, implying the presence of unseen material – dark matter – supplying the necessary gravitational glue.
U.S. Representatives Bernice Johnson and Jenniffer González-Colón led the effort to honour Rubin, sponsoring a bill in ...