A astrônoma americana Vera Rubin, que pôs em evidência a existência da matéria escura no universo, morreu no domingo aos 88 anos em Princeton, Nova Jersey.
“Rubin era um tesouro nacional como astrônoma e um exemplo formidável para os jovens cientistas”, disse o presidente do Instituto Carnegie para a Ciência, Matthew Scott, em uma nota datada de segunda-feira.
Rubin sofreu as desvantagens de ser mulher e lutou contra elas. Rejeitada pelo prestigioso programa de astronomia da Universidade de Princeton, que só admitia homens, se formou nas universidades Cornell e de Georgetown, e foi uma enérgica defensora dos direitos das mulheres.
Rubin foi a primeira mulher a ter acesso ao Observatório Palomar, na Califórnia, em 1965.
Contratada em 1965 pelo departamento de magnetismo terrestre do Instituto Carnegie, se interessou rapidamente pelos movimentos das galáxias e sua rotação.
Junto com seu colega Kent Ford, descobriu que no interior das galáxias a velocidade das estrelas não obedecia estritamente às leis da gravidade. A partir disso, deduziu a existência de uma massa invisível, a matéria escura, que representa 90% do universo.
A teoria da matéria escura tinha sido apresentada em 1933 pelo astrofísico suíço Fritz Zwicky, mas Rubin a confirmou.
Em 1993, ela recebeu a Medalha Nacional de Ciências do então presidente americano, Bill Clinton.
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