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SHINING STAR by Suzanne Slade


Vera Rubin Discovers Dark Matter

by Suzanne Slade ; illustrated by Susan Reagan

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2023
ISBN: 9781635926019
Publisher: Calkins Creek/Astra Books for Young Readers

A brilliant astronomer set her sights high.

Vera Rubin, the child and grandchild of Jewish immigrants, was always fascinated by stars; by age 10, she knew she wanted to become an astronomer. But few colleges permitted women to study astronomy. Vassar did and offered her a scholarship. A brilliant student, she breezed through her courses and subsequently earned master’s and PhD degrees. Vera’s next challenge was to gain access to huge observatory telescopes, since men had priority. She scored a major victory, though: Due to her stellar reputation, the scientists at California’s Palomar Observatory broke their rule about barring women from using their powerful telescope, and she became the first woman to observe there. Vera made a huge breakthrough when she proved that stars on the outer edges of spiral galaxies moved at the same speed as those near the center. Other astronomers dismissed her findings, but Vera realized that an invisible force was causing this phenomenon: dark matter. More women in STEM fields should be brought to young readers’ attention; this is a well-written, absorbing portrait of a brilliant female scientist in a particularly male-dominated field. Quotes from Rubin are sprinkled throughout, like stars. The illustrations, created with hand-painted watercolor washes and ink lines that were enhanced digitally, have a “cosmic” feel to them, with lots of night-sky purple, swirling planets, and starlike points of color.

An admiring, respectful treatment of a highly accomplished scientist.

(author’s note, Dr. Rubin’s dark matter discovery, timeline, bibliography, photos, photo credits) (Picture-book biography. 7-10)