A few months ago I reviewed a picture book about Edwin Hubble, The Boy Whose Head Was Filled with Stars. In that book, the author mentioned Vera Rubin, the woman who was interested in studying questions in astronomy that others (yes, mostly men) didn’t bother with. And voilá, now we have her biography!
Vera Rubin faced ridicule.
She pursued a career in astronomy while raising a family.
She faced being ignored.
She faced having no bathroom for women at Palomar Observatory in California. Something she took care of quite handily.
She observed that galaxies clustered together like dew drops on a spider’s web. Few wanted to believe her.
But she didn’t quit. She doubled down and proved that dark matter existed by the way it affected the stars around it. And that it made up more than 80% of the matter in the universe…something that other astronomers had missed.
Love this woman! Love her focus, her moxie, and her persistence. And thank you to Sandra Nickel and Aimée Sicuro for bringing us her story, accompanied by some striking images. The galaxies clustering like dew drops on a spider’s web will stick with me forever.
If you can, head outside after a light rain or in the early morning, and see if you can find drops on spiders’ webs. Alternatively, Google “dew on a spider web” and observe the lovely images you find.
Write a poem that combines or mashes together the images of dew on a spider’s web with images from astronomy.
Comb through the text of this book and write down all of the different challenges Vera Rubin faced, including direct challenges from her colleagues and challenges at work and at home because she was a woman. Do women still face those challenges today?
Title: The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered MOST of the Universe
Author: Sandra Nickel
Illustrator: Aimée Sicuro
Publisher: Abrams, 2021
Themes: astronomy, STEM, women’s history, persistence
Ages: Elementary school
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.