Vera Rubin continues to explore the galaxies. In 1992, she discovered a galaxy (NGC 4550) in which half the stars in the disk are orbiting in one direction and half in the opposite direction, with both systems intermingled! Perhaps this resulted from the merging of two galaxies rotating in opposite directions. Rubin has since found several other cases of similarly bizarre behavior. More recently, she and her colleagues found that half the galaxies in the great Virgo cluster show signs of disturbances due to close gravitational encounters with other galaxies.
In recognition of her achievements, Vera Rubin was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and in 1993 was awarded the National Medal of Science. But throughout her career, Rubin has not sought status or acclaim. Rather, her goal has been the personal satisfaction of scientific discovery. “We have peered into a new world,” she wrote, “and have seen that it is more mysterious and more complex than we had imagined. Still more mysteries of the universe remain hidden. Their discovery awaits the adventurous scientists of the future. I like it this way.”