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NASA astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, "mother" of the Hubble Space Telescope, is dead: NPR



Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, known as the "Mother" of Hubble, died at the age of 93.

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Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, known as Hubble's "Mother," died at the age of 93.

Courtesy of NASA

When Nancy Grace Roman was a child, she preferred to move the moon.

Her mother walked with her under the night sky and showed her constellations or showed the colorful vortex of the aurora. Roman liked to look up at the stars and introduce himself.

Eventually her passion for stargazing developed into a career as a renowned astronomer. Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA, where she served as the agency's chief astronomy chief.

Known as the "Mother of Hubble", Roman worked at NASA when he implemented the Hubble Space Telescope for nearly two decades. She died on December 25, at the age of 93.

Roman fought for a place in a male-dominated field, paving the way for future women scientists. Born in 1935 in Nashville, Tennessee, she organized a fifth-grade astronomy club. She attended high school in Baltimore, where she took a second year of algebra instead of a fifth Latin course.

When she made the appeal, in an interview with NPR in 2017, she reported that the counselor did not support her dream of becoming a scientist.

"She looked at me and mocked, what kind of woman would she do?" Mathematics instead of Latin?

Roman earned his undergraduate degree in 1946 from Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, and received his PhD in 1949 from the University of Chicago, both in astronomy. After working at the Naval Research Laboratory, she joined NASA in 1959.

"NASA was half a year old and it was a great place to work then," Roman said in her 2017 interview. "Everyone was gung ho."

From the beginning, Roman has promoted space-based astronomy, where instrumentation is operated unlike traditional ground-based astronomical devices such as telescopes in space. The reason for this thrust is that looking through the Earth's atmosphere worsens or reduces the quality of observation.

But the belief of ground-based astronomers that space astronomy was worth it was not easy, according to David DeVorkin, senior curator of the National Air and Space Museum.

"She had this very, very egalitarian view on how to make space astronomy part of astronomy, and I think that's a very important legacy," he said.

Their efforts contributed to the creation of Hubble space in telescope. In her role at NASA, Roman designed and planned the Hubble Space Telescope, which is famous for its breathtaking images of space.

10 striking images from the Hubble Space Telescope

NASA / Getty Images

  •   This image from December 2, 2005 shows a spreading remnant of the supernova explosion of a star. The orange filaments are the remnants of the star.

    This image from December 2, 2005 shows a spreading remnant of the supernova explosion of a star. The orange filaments are the remnants of the star.

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  • NASA / Getty Images

  •   This undated image shows the ESO 510 G13 galaxy, which has a deformed dusty disk.

    This undated image shows the ESO 510 G13 galaxy, which has a discarded dusty disk.

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  • NASA / Getty Images

  •   This photo, published October 4, 2006, shows one half of the Hubble Space Telescope's field of view.

    This photo, released October 4, 2006, shows one half of the Hubble Space Telescope Field's view.

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  • AFP / Getty Images

  •   This picture, published on February 1, 2001, shows a dying star in the so-called "ant-mist".

    This image, published on February 1, 2001, shows a dying star of the so-called "ant-mist".

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  • NASA / Getty Images

  •   This picture, released on April 25, 2005 for the 15th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, features the Whirlpool Galaxy.

    This image was released on April 25, 2005 for the 15th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. shows the Whirlpool Galaxy.

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  • NASA / Getty Images

  •   This picture, published on April 25, 2005, shows the Eagle Nebula.

    This picture, published on April 25, 2005, shows the Eagle Nebula.

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  • NASA / Getty Images

  •   This image, released on December 4, 2003, shows the NGC 604 Nebula, one of the largest known regions of star formation in a nearby galaxy.

    This image was posted on December 4, 2003, showing the NGC 604 Nebula, one of the largest known regions of star formation in a nearby galaxy.

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  • AFP / Getty Images

  •   This March 1, 2001 photograph shows the NGC 4013 galaxy, which is about 55 million light-years from Earth.

    This image from March 1, 2001 shows the NGC 4013 galaxy, located about 55 million light-years from Earth.

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  • NASA / Getty Images

  •   This space-age image, taken on January 7, 2003, shows galaxies 13 billion light years away.

    This space-age image, taken on January 7, 2003, shows galaxies 13 billion light years away.

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  • NASA / Getty Images

    The Hubble Space Telescope allowed scientists to collect data and gain insights into the most remote galaxies in the universe. The project's success led to future space telescopes.

    However, Roman's work extended far beyond the Hubble Space Telescope. In an interview with NASA, Roman once said that one of the highlights of her career was when she found the first sign that the stars were not all the same age.

    Lego honored astronomer Nancy Grace Roman by installing her figure alongside the Hubble Space Telescope in a series of pioneering women from NASA.

    Russell Lewis / NPR


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    Russell Lewis / NPR

    Lego honored astronomer Nancy Grace Roman by incorporating her figure alongside the Hubble Space Telescope into a series of pioneering women from NASA.

    Russell Lewis / NPR

    Roman retired from NASA in 1979, but received the Lifetime Achievement Award and the NASA Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement for her work. She received a special honor last year when she was featured in a Lego set of four groundbreaking NASA women.

    In the Lego set, her figure stands next to a Hubble space miniature telescope – a replica of the instrument that gave the world dazzling images of the stars she loved so well as a child.

    Amanda Morris of NPR produced this story for Digital.


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