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UCSC Astronomer Sandra Faber Awarded the National Medal of Science

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by J.D. Hillard | KUSP News

Professor Sandra Faber poses with an image created by the Hubble Telescope's deep field image. Courtesy of ucsc.edu

At a ceremony at the White House Friday, UCSC Astronomy Professor Sandra Faber will be among 12 scientists to be awarded the National Medal of Science.

Faber has spent a long career expanding human knowledge of how galaxies and other large astronomical objects form and behave. Faber recalled an idea crucial to one discovery arose when she was walking to lunch with colleagues at Dartmouth University in the mid 1980s. While waiting to cross the street at a traffic light, they were talking about their observations showing that galaxies don’t move the directions predicted by a smooth expansion of the universe. That was when they realized the picture would be clearer if they looked at galaxies’ speeds relative to the cosmic microwave background against which the earth moves about 600 km per second.

“In other words, what we had discovered in that moment was that an enormous chunk of the universe centered around the Milky Way was flying along at 600 km per second,” Faber says, “no one had ever realized that.”

Faber was a member of the team that figured out how to correct the fuzzy images collected

This contributed to a new understanding of the universe in which groups of galaxies or super clusters are gathered by lumps that resulted from the Big Bang and are swirling around each other at relatively high speeds. It’s for her role in this as well as a slew of other discoveries that Sandra Faber will receive the National Medal of Science later today. I’m J.D. Hillard.

For full disclosure, UCSC is an underwriter of KUSP.

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