|Sandra M. Faber|
December 28, 1944 |
Boston, MA, United States
|Residence||California, United States|
|Institutions||University of California, Santa Cruz
|Alma mater||Swarthmore College
|Doctoral advisor||Vera Rubin|
|Known for||Faber–Jackson relation, Designing the Keck Observatory|
|Notable awards||Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics (1985)
Bruce Medal (2012)
National Medal of Science (2013)
Sandra Moore Faber (born 1944) is a University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and works at the Lick Observatory. She has made important discoveries linking the brightness of galaxies to the speed of stars within them and was the co-discoverer of the Faber–Jackson relation. Faber was also instrumental in designing the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.
Faber studied at Swarthmore College, majoring in Physics and minoring in Mathematics and Astronomy. She earned her B.A. in 1966. Soon after she went on to earn her Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1972, where she studied Optical Observational Astronomy. During this time the only observatory open to her was the Kitt Peak National Observatory, which had inadequate technology for the complexity of her thesis.
Soon after finishing her thesis, Sandra Faber got a job as an Assistant Professor at the Lick Observatory at University of California, Santa Cruz. She was the first female staff member at Lick. After having a three-year hiatus between research papers, Faber observed the relationship between the brightness and spectra of galaxies and the orbital speeds and motions of the stars within them. The law that resulted would become better known as the Faber-Jackson relation, after herself and the co-author, graduate student Robert Jackson. This was a major clue as to how galaxies were formed, but an explanation wouldn’t be discovered until 1985.
Around 1984, the paper "Formation of galaxies and large scale structure with cold dark matter" was written by Faber and two other colleagues, Joel Primack and George Blumenthal and with Martin Rees. This was the first proposal of how galaxies have formed and evolved from the Big Bang to today. While some details have been proven wrong, the paper still stands as the current working paradigm for structure information in the universe.
In 1985, Faber was involved with the construction of the Keck Telescope and building the first wide-field planetary camera for the Hubble Space Telescope. UC Berkeley physicist Jerry Nelson designed the Keck telescope, but Faber helped to sell the idea of large optical telescopes all over the world. The Keck telescope is the largest optical telescope in the world, with a 10-meter primary mirror of a novel type that consists of 36 hexagonal segments.
Sandra Faber co-chaired the Science Steering Committee, which oversaw the first-light instrument for Keck I. She also continued to insist on high optical quality for the primary mirror of the Keck I, and went on to work on the Keck II.
During the later 1980s, Faber got involved in an eight-year project called the “Seven Samurai” collaboration. The project called for a catalog of accurate galaxy size and orbital speeds of 400 galaxies. While the plan failed, it was still successful in some unexpected ways. They had discovered a way to estimate the distance to every galaxy. The phenomenon involved has become one of the most reliable ways to measure the total mass density of the universe, and whether it will continue to expand forever or collapse again one day.
In 1990, she assisted with the on-orbit commissioning of the wide field planetary camera for the Hubble Space Telescope. She lists this as one of the most exhilarating and well-known phases of her career. The optics of the Hubble were flawed, and Faber and her team helped to diagnose the cause as spherical aberration. Soon after, plans to refurbish the Hubble were started over again, a project that took countless hundred-hour workweeks.
Faber was also the principal investigator of the Nuker Team, which used the Hubble Space Telescope to search for supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies. One of her most recent works include the addition of a new optical spectrograph for the Keck II telescope, which saw its first light in 1996. The new addition would increase the Keck II’s power for observing far-away galaxies by 13-fold. She has also joined up with other scientists to create the CANDELS project, which is the largest survey of the universe taken by the Hubble Telescope.
At UCSC she focuses her research on the evolution of structure in the universe and the evolution and formation of galaxies. In addition to this, she led the development of the DEIMOS instrument on the Keck telescopes to obtain spectra of cosmologically distant galaxies. On August 1, 2012 she became the Interim Director of the University of California Observatories.
Sandra Faber is co-editor of the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Honors, Awards, and Grants
- Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1985
- Elected to the American Philosophical Society on April 29, 2001
- Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- Harvard Board of Overseers
- Member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Institution for Science
- Vice President and member, Board of Directors, Annual Reviews
- Received the Heineman Prize in 1985
- Awarded the Harvard Centennial Medal in 2006
- Received 2009 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science from the Franklin Institute for three decades of research on the formation and evolution of galaxies
- Received the Bruce Medal from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in May, 2012
- Received the Karl Schwarzschild Medal from the German Astronomical Society in September, 2012
- Received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama in February, 2013
- Received the Annette de Vaucouleurs Medal from the University of Texas
- Medailled de l’Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow
- Honorary Degrees from the University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, and Williams College 
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- Faber, S. (1995, July 12). Autobiographical Sketch: Sandra M Faber. Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://cwp.library.ucla.edu/articles/faber.htm
- Sandra Faber Honored By American Astronomical Society. (2011, January 18). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/848222994/D1B499BC487E4DD0PQ/2?accountid=108
- Burns, J. (2012, December 12). UCSC astronomer Sandra Faber to receive the National Medal of Science. Retrieved November 24, 2015, from http://news.ucsc.edu/2012/12/national-science-medal.html
- Peter H Bodenheimer. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://www.astro.ucsc.edu/faculty/profiles/singleton.php?singleton=true&cruz_id=smfaber
- Where Are You From? - Credo Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/marquisworld/faber_sandra_moore/0?searchId=d87354e9-6254-11e5-b2c4-0aea1e3b2a47&result=0
- Dr. Faber's page @ UCSC
- See video of Dr. Faber @ Meta-Library.net
- UC Santa Cruz's biography of Sandra Faber
- on YouTube, from the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures
- Oral History interview transcript with Sandra M. Faber 31 July 2002, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
- Video of Faber talking about her work, from the National Science & Technology Medals Foundation
- Photographs of Sandra Faber from the UC Santa Cruz Library's Digital Collections