Dr. Carolyn C. PorcoCarolyn C. Porco, Ph.D., D.Sc. (h.c.) is an American planetary scientist known for her work in the exploration of the outer solar system, beginning with her imaging work on the Voyager missions to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in the 1980s. She leads the imaging science team on the Cassini mission currently in orbit around Saturn. She is also an imaging scientist on the New Horizons mission launched to Pluto on January 19, 2006. She is an expert on planetary rings and the Saturnian moon, Enceladus. She is also Senior Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is also the CEO of Diamond Sky Productions, a company devoted to the scientific, as well as artful, use of planetary images and computer graphics for the presentation of science to the public.
She has coauthored over 100 scientific papers on subjects ranging from the spectroscopy of Uranus and Neptune, the interstellar medium, the photometry of planetary rings, satellite/ring interactions, computer simulations of planetary rings, the thermal balance of Triton’s polar caps, heat flow in the interior of Jupiter, and a suite of results on the atmosphere, satellites, and rings of Saturn from the Cassini imaging experiment.
She was responsible for the epitaph and proposal to honor the late renowned planetary geologist Eugene Shoemaker by sending his cremains to the Moon aboard the Lunar Prospector spacecraft in 1998.
A frequent public speaker, Carolyn gave the opening speech for Pangea Day, a global broadcast coordinated from 6 cities around the world that took place on May 10, 2008, in which she described the cosmic context for human existence. Watch her TED Talks Carolyn Porco flies us to Saturn and Carolyn Porco: Could a Saturn moon harbor life? Watch Carolyn Porco Pangea Day Opening Speech, Beyond Belief: Carolyn Porco On Science & Religion parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, ‘Science in Hollywood’ by Carolyn Porco, AAI 2009, and Carolyn Porco: If not God then What?.
Carolyn earned her B.S. degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1974. She earned her Ph.D. in Geological and Planetary Sciences from the California Institute of Technology in 1983. Her contributions to the exploration of the outer solar system were recognized with the 1998 naming of Asteroid (7231) Porco which is “Named in honor of Carolyn C. Porco, a pioneer in the study of planetary ring systems…and a leader in spacecraft exploration of the outer solar system.” In 1999, she was selected by The Sunday Times (London) as one of 18 scientific leaders of the 21st century.
She received the Isaac Asimov Science Award by the American Humanist Association in 2008. She was chosen by Wired Magazine in 2008 as one of 15 people the President of the US should listen to. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in May 2009. She was the science consultant on the 2009 Paramount Pictures film Star Trek. In May 2010, she won the 2010 Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in the Communication of Science to the Public, presented by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.
Listen to her Podcast on the Cassini mission. Follow her Twitter feed.