Carnegie Alum Jackie Faherty Wins Vera Rubin Early Career Prize

Postdocs Jackie Faherty and Johanna Teske pose with Staff Astronomer Alycia Weinberger
Carnegie Alum Jackie Faherty (right) recently won the American Astronomical Society's Vera Rubin Prize. Here she stands with the then postdoc, now Staff Scientist Johanna Teske (left) and Staff Scientist Alycia Weinberger (middle) in 2016.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020 

Earth & Planets Laboratory (EPL) congratulates alum Jackie Faherty, who recently received the American Astronomical Society’s 2020 Vera Rubin Early Career Prize. Named after EPL’s famed astronomer, the Vera Rubin Early Career Prize recognizes an early career dynamicist who demonstrates excellence in scientific research in Dynamical Astronomy or closely related fields. 

According to the American Astronomical Society press release, Faherty, who now works at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), received the award for: “her work on the kinematics of very faint stars in the Milky Way as well as her leadership in developing unique ways to engage the public and professional science teams with the astronomical field fundamental to the study of dynamics: astrometry.”

As a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the Earth & Planets Laboratory (then DTM), Faherty focused on brown dwarfs—celestial objects that weigh in somewhere between the heaviest gas giant planets and the lightest stars. These peculiar sub-stellar objects look a lot like giant exoplanets, and Faherty built a comparative library of brown dwarfs’ spectral signatures in order to understand the chemical diversity of giant planets in the nearby solar neighborhood. During her time at Carnegie, she also co-ran the collaborative “BDNYC” research group, which she continues to run at the AMNH. 

Faherty is also active in science outreach and collaboration at the American Museum of Natural History, including Backyard Worlds. This citizen-science project works with scientists and members of the public to help discover more brown dwarfs. (The group recently announced the discovery of 95 brown dwarfs.)

Richard Carlson, Director of the Earth and Planets Laboratory, remarked, “Jackie was such an extraordinary postdoc while at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) that I am not surprised to see her win an award of this nature.” He continued, “I am extremely pleased to see the broader astronomical community recognize her outstanding abilities with this award and am doubly pleased to see that the Vera Rubin award went to a DTM alum.  Vera would have delighted in this result."

Faherty will be invited to give lectures at the 52nd annual meeting of the AAS Division on Dynamical Astronomy, to be held virtually 17-21 May 2021.