Sandra Faber

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Sandra M. Faber
Born (1944-12-28) December 28, 1944 (age 79)
Boston, MA, United States
Residence California, United States
Nationality American
Fields Astronomy
Institutions University of California, Santa Cruz
Lick Observatory
Alma mater Swarthmore College
Harvard University
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.

Professional work

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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

See also


  1. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  2. Faber, S. (1995, July 12). Autobiographical Sketch: Sandra M Faber. Retrieved November 14, 2015, from
  3. Sandra Faber Honored By American Astronomical Society. (2011, January 18). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from
  4. Burns, J. (2012, December 12). UCSC astronomer Sandra Faber to receive the National Medal of Science. Retrieved November 24, 2015, from
  5. Peter H Bodenheimer. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from
  6. Where Are You From? - Credo Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from

External links