Nancy Roman and Vera Rubin heard it many times: astronomy isn’t for girls. Neither of them paid much attention, though. Instead, they kept chasing the stars. They became two of the most accomplished and respected astronomers of their time. And today, they’re the namesakes for two major facilities — the first women to receive such an honor.
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is scheduled for launch later this decade. Among other chores, it’ll study dark energy and search for planets in other star systems.
Roman was born in 1925. In 1960, she became the first chief astronomer for NASA — a post she held for almost two decades. She oversaw development of several space telescopes, and was a driving force in the early years of the Hubble telescope. She also oversaw projects that lofted telescopes on balloons and airplanes.
The Vera Rubin Observatory features a giant telescope that’s under construction in Chile. When completed, the telescope will snap pictures of the entire sky about every three nights. Comparing images will allow astronomers to study variable stars, discover asteroids, probe dark energy and dark matter, and more.
Rubin was born in 1928 and became a leader in studying galaxies. Her observations of the motions of spiral galaxies helped confirm the existence of dark matter.
Roman and Rubin also were strong advocates for women in science, helping many women — and girls — understand that astronomy is for them.
Script by Damond Benningfield