Museum Astronomer Jackie Faherty Receives Vera Rubin Prize

by AMNH on

News Posts

Jackie Faherty, Senior Scientist in the AMNH Astrophysics Department, stands at a podium giving a talk. R. Mickens/© AMNH

Museum astronomer Jackie Faherty is the recipient of the 2020 Vera Rubin Early Career Prize from the American Astronomical Society (AAS), an award that recognizes scientists who have made an impact in the field of dynamical astronomy.

Faherty was selected for her work mapping very faint stars and brown dwarfs in the Milky Way, as well as for her leadership in developing unique ways to engage the public and professional science teams with astrometry, the precise measurement of celestial objects’ positions and motions in the sky.

“It is such an honor to receive this award, which was created in the name of one of my personal idols, Vera Rubin,” Faherty said. “Her work was a huge stepping stone to our understanding of the dynamic universe we live in, and, closer to home, she helped found the Museum’s Astrophysics Department, serving on its advisory board around the turn of the century.”

Faherty earned her Ph.D. from Stony Brook University in 2011. While there, she initiated the Brown Dwarf Kinematics Project, which measured and compiled the positions and velocities of  brown dwarfs—objects more massive than planets but lighter than stars. She studies a wide range of phenomena related to brown dwarfs, from their ages to their cloud features, with a focus on the motions and characteristics of young brown dwarfs and how they relate to giant exoplanets.

As a senior scientist and senior education manager at the Museum, Faherty holds a unique position that allows her to pursue scientific research while mentoring and advising education programs for students and the general public. Working with the Open Space visualization software, which is supported by NASA and was developed by a team that includes the Museum’s science visualization group, Faherty has led research efforts to explore new structures in the Milky Way, including several projects with students in the Museum’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, and has provided breathtaking tours for thousands of Museum visitors onsite and online.

Faherty co-leads a dynamic research group at the Museum—Brown Dwarfs in New York City (BDNYC)—and she also co-founded the popular citizen science project Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, which has engaged more than 150,000 individuals across the globe to search for previously missing objects lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system and in neighboring interstellar space, leading to five scientific publications with more than 20 citizen co-authors so far.