Woman Monitored 'Dark Matter' Early

By Beal, Tom | AZ Daily Star, July 28, 2012 | Go to article overview

Woman Monitored 'Dark Matter' Early


Beal, Tom, AZ Daily Star


The Arizona Daily Star's Centennial salute to science in Arizona runs all summer. Each day, for 100 days, we'll record a milestone in the state's scientific history.

Vera Rubin never lived in Arizona, but she spent many nights atop its mountains, looking at stars in distant galaxies, collecting the photographic evidence for the existence of mass that does not give off light.

Her spectra of spiral galaxies, beginning with nearby Andromeda, revealed that stars at their outer edges, which should be moving slowly according to the laws of physics, had the same orbital velocity as stars in the center.

The data pointed to the existence of large amounts of stuff that doesn't shine - the mysterious "dark matter" of the universe.

To collect the data, Rubin worked on telescopes atop Kitt Peak near Tucson and at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff in the '60s and '70s, using a new spectrographic instrument invented by her collaborator W. Kent Ford of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Their observations overturned the accepted views of the universe, though it took 20 years of additional evidence to fully convince the astronomical community. …

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