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Picture of Sandra Faber

Sandra Moore Faber

Additional Information

Some Important Contributions:

"Variations in spectral-energy distributions and absorption-line strengths among elliptical galaxies," ApJ, 179, 731-754, 1973.

  • Established that the colors and absorption-line strengths in the spectra of elliptical galaxie vary systematically with galaxy brightness. This discovery laid the foundation for all further work on the stellar populations of elliptical galaxies.
"Velocity dispersions and mass-to-light ratios for elliptical galaxies," AJ, 204, 668-683, 1976, with R.E. Jackson.
  • Established that the internal orbital velocities in elliptical galaxies are bigger in larger galaxies according to the law v ~ L^(1/4), where L is galaxy luminosity. Thi was the first of the "scaling laws" discovered for galaxies. It and later law found by others are the basic dynamical properties that theories of galaxy formation must explain.
"Masses and mass-to-light ratios of galaxies," Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys., 17, 135-187, 1979, with J.S. Gallagher.
  • Reviewed available data on galaxy masses and concluded that galaxies must be surrounded by invisible halos of dark matter. Regarded by many as the definitive statement that convinced astronomers of the existence of dark matter in the universe.
"Spectroscopy and photometry of elliptical galaxies. V. Galaxy streaming towards the new supergalactic centre," ApJ, 326, 19-49, 1988, with D. Lynden-Bell, D. Burstein, R.L. Davies, A. Dressler, R. Terlevich, and G. Wegner.
  • Used distances to elliptical galaxies estimated from their scaling laws to measure irregularities in the local expansion of the universe. A huge patch of the universe was discovered around the Milky Way galaxy moving "sideways" and falling onto a large supercluster of galaxies in the Southern hemisphere dubbed the "Great Attractor". This large-scale flow wa very surprising at the time but is now understood to be compatible with the fluctuations in the matter density caused by inflation, of the sort invoked in the previous paper to explain the origin of galaxies.
"The centers of early-type galaxies with HST. IV. Central parameter relations," AJ, 114, 1771, 1997, with S. Tremaine, E.A. Ajhar, Y.I. Byun et al.
  • Summarized the results of many images of the centers of elliptical galaxies taken with Space Telescope and argued based on those images that most large elliptical galaxies must contain a central supermassive black hole.


1978 Bart J. Bok Prize, Harvard University
1985 Elected to National Academy of Sciences
1986 Heineman Prize, American Astronomical Society
1986 Honorary D. Sc., Swarthmore College
1989 Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1993 NASA Group Achievement Award, Wide-Field/Planetary Camera Team
1996 University Professor, University of California
1997 Honorary D.Sc., Williams College


1972 - 1977 Assistant Professor/Assistant Astronomer, Lick Observatory, University of California, Santa Cruz
1977 - 1979 Associate Professor/Associate Astronomer, Lick Observatory, University of California, Santa Cruz
1979 - present   Professor/Astronomer, Lick Observatory, University of California, Santa Cruz
1996 - present   University Professor, University of California


1966 B.A. in Physics (High Honors), Swarthmore College
1972 Ph.D. in Astronomy, Harvard University

Sources and References consulted:

Sandra Faber and [ncs1995md], [amw1994], [nwps1997bfs].

Recommended Reading:

"Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary", B.F. Shearer and B.S. Shearer, eds., Greenwood Press (1997) [nwps1997bfs]

Autobiographical sketch hyperlinked below.

Additional Information/Comments:

Married Andrew Leigh Faber, June 9, 1967. They have two daughters Robin and Holly.

She studied under Sarah Lee Lippincott at Swarthmore (a lecturer without a PhD)

In 1990, she helped establish Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Member, wide-field camera design team for the Hubble Space telescope.


Field Editor:

Professor Joel Primack

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To cite this citation:
" Faber, Sandra Moore." CWP < home >


latest revision {4/30/97 mjw} 3/16/01 nb