Sandy Faber

Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics

Interplanetary Project Panelist, July 2017

“Sandy” Faber was born in Boston but completed high school in Pittsburgh. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at Swarthmore College in 1966 and her Ph.D. in astronomy at Harvard University in 1972. While a graduate student she lived in Washington, DC and worked with Vera Rubin and Kent Ford. Since 1972 she has been at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Lick Observatory (now University of California Observatories). In 1996 she was awarded the University’s highest honor, University Professor. Her research has focussed on understanding the formation, evolution, properties, and motions of galaxies. She has made spectroscopic observations of elliptical galaxies and discovered (with her student, Robert Jackson) a link between the velocity dispersions in elliptical galaxies and their luminosities. She has studied the structure and evolution of the stellar populations of galaxies and demonstrated the importance of dark matter halos in determining their evolution. In the 1980s she teamed up with theorist Donald Lynden-Bell and five other observers (two of them her former students, Alan Dressler and David Burstein) to measure properties of 300 galaxies. The team, dubbed the “Seven Samurai,” found irregularities in the “Hubble flow” of galaxies in the expansion of the Universe, which they ascribed to a very great mass, now called the “Great Attractor,” pulling all the nearby galaxies toward its position. In 1984, she, George Blumenthal, Joel Primack, and Martin Rees published the first comprehensive study of the properties of galaxies and clusters of galaxies that would result from a universe dominated by cold dark matter. Faber has investigated massive black holes in the centers of galaxies and participated in galaxy redshift surveys out to great distances. She participated in the construction of the Wide Field/Planetary Camera and the diagnosis and correction of the initial spherical aberration on the Hubble Space Telescope, and she led the development of the DEIMOS multiobject spectrograph for the Keck II Telescope. She is currently a co-principal investigator of the team conducting the CANDELS Survey with the Hubble Space Telescope. She is currently serving as interim director of the University of California Observatories (UCO).