Sandra Moore Faber '66 Honored for Lifetime Achievements in Astronomical Research

by Allison Shultes '15
Sandra Faber awarded Bruce Gold Medal
Sandra Moore Faber '66 is awarded the Bruce Gold Medal by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Sandra Moore Faber '66 was recently awarded the Bruce Gold Medal by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. One of the highest honors in American Astronomy, it is awarded each year to a scientist for a lifetime of outstanding research in the field.

Faber's contributions to astronomy include impressive advances in understanding dark matter, galaxy formation, and the structure of the universe, as well as significant contributions to instrumental design. Her research helped muster support in the scientific community for the theory that dark matter comprises galaxies' outer limits and accounts for the majority of their mass. She co-developed the Faber-Jackson relation, a formula for estimating the distance to far-off galaxies, and helped discover "The Great Attractor," a mass towards which the Milky Way and other galaxies in the vicinity are being pulled. She additionally researched supermassive black holes located in the centers of nearby galaxies and co-authored one of the first comprehensive papers attempting to explain the evolution of galaxies from the time of the Big Bang to the present.

Her work on the Hubble Space Telescope's Camera Team, as well as her involvement in recognizing and solving a problem with one of its mirrors discovered shortly after launch, illustrate Faber's capacity to engage in feats of engineering as well as discovery. She also contributed to the creation of the Deep-Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS), used to observe distant galaxies from the Keck Observatories in Hawaii.

In addition to her research and technological contributions to the field, Faber is the co-editor of the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, a nonprofit science journal highlighting important discoveries in the field. She is a member of both the National Academy of the Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. She was awarded the Heinimen Prize in 1985 by the American Astronomical Society and American Institute of Physics for outstanding work in astrophysics and the Harvard Centennial Medal in 2006 by the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for her contributions to society.

Faber graduated from Swarthmore College in 1966 with high honors in physics and earned a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University.