Back in the 1970s, a pioneering woman worked to uncover the machinations of the Dark Side... I am, of course, referring to astrophysicist Dr Vera Rubin, who died this past Sunday at the age of 88. Dr Rubin's observation that the edges of spiral galaxies rotated at the same rate as their centers revealed that there was a 'halo' of dark matter around every spiral galaxy- with less visible matter at the edges of the galaxy than at the center, the rate of rotation at the edges should be slower if one just took into account the visible matter.
She was also an eminently quotable scientist, a champion of research funding and of improving the role of women in the STEM fields. It is often suspected that Dr Rubin was snubbed for a Nobel Prize because of her gender... after all, she did make observations that confirmed the existence of almost 25% of the universe.
On this blog, Dr Rubin's name popped up in my recaps of Dr Priyamvada Natarajan's lectures on dark matter and gravitational lensing. Dr Natarajan's lectures are nice, understandable overviews of the murky subject of dark matter.
Here's a quick biographical video on Dr Rubin, oddly enough, posted nine days before her death:
We lost a pioneering figure in astrophysics and women's rights, and the universe is thereby diminished... Vera was truly a light in the darkness.