An American planetary scientist, Carolyn Porco is famous for her work on the joint NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, and the Voyager missions exploring the outer Solar System.
Top 4 facts about Carolyn Porco
Not just limited to space education, Porco has had a hand in helping to make cinematic gold! She was a consultant on several space-themed movies including Contact as well as the J.J. Abrams Star Trek.
Porco is a huge fan of the rock band, the Beatles. She’s used the group’s music on many different occasions, including putting the short film of Cassini Saturn photos to the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” in honor of Paul McCartney’s 64th birthday. To honor the first images she took from the first Cassini mission to Saturn, she released them on John Lennon’s birthday.
On July 19th, 2013, Porco put together an event named The Day The Earth Smiled, which allowed for everyone on Earth to realize they were having their photograph taken in the background of a photo of Saturn. Talk about an epic photobomb!
Porco’s favorite animals are cats and horses.
All the atoms of our bodies will be blown into space in the disintegration of the solar system, to live on forever as mass or energy. that's what we should be teaching our children, not fairy tales about angels and seeing grandma in Heaven.
Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome - and even comforting - than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.
Being a scientist and staring immensity and eternity in the face every day is as grand and inspiring as it gets.
Carolyn’s Childhood & Education
She graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx in 1970. She earned a BS degree from State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1974 and received a PHD in 1983 from California Institute of Technology in Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. She wrote her dissertation on Voyager discoveries in the rings of Saturn.
In 1983, Carolyn joined the faculty of the Department of Planetary Sciences in the University of Arizona. This was the same year that she became a member of the Voyager Imaging Team. Voyager is a spacecraft that explores the outer Solar System.
She was involved in the Voyager meetings with Uranus in 1986 and Neptunein 1989. Carolyn was the first person to describe the behaviour of the ringletswithin the rings of Saturn.
This explained the mechanism of how the outer Uranian rings were put together by the moons Cordelia and Ophelia, which were discovered by Voyager.
This was also used to provide an explanation for the herding of the rings arcs of Neptune by the moon Galatea, which was also found by Voyager.
Carolyn also came up with the idea to take a ‘portrait of the planets’ using the Voyager spacecraft and also worked with the team to plan, design, and execute the images in 1990. This included the famous Pale Blue Dot image of Earth.
Carolyn Porco with the NASA animation of Voyager at Uranus
Carolyn was picked to be the leader of the Imaging Team for the Cassini-Huygens mission: a mission that placed a spacecraft in orbit around Saturn. It was also set up the Huygens probe to Saturn’s satellite, Titan.
Carolyn was the Director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory. She was in charge of the Cassini imaging science experiment and it was also where Cassini images were processed and shown to the public.
During this mission, Carolyn and her team discovered Saturn’s seven moons and a small moonlet in the outer B-ring. They also found new rings of Saturn.
Carolyn and Mark Marley had made a prediction in 1993 that acoustic vibrations in the body of Saturn were responsible for creating some features inthe ring of Saturn. This was later confirmed by Cassini data in 2013.
In 2005, Carolyn’s team was also responsible for the first sighting of ahydrocarbon lake, and a lake district in Titan. Her team was also responsible forthe first sighting of plumes erupting from Saturn’s sixth moon.
Carolyn is a member of the imaging team for the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Carolyn also planned to capture a picture of Saturn with the Earth on July 19th2013. This image was named “The Day the Earth Smiled” as people all over theworld celebrated humanity’s place on Earth by smiling when the picture was taken. Carolyn was also part of the faculty of the University of Arizona from1983 to 2001. She achieved a tenured professorship in1991 and taught graduates and undergraduates.
Carolyn is a Senior Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Carolyn has also guided the American planetary exploration program on NASA committees. In 1990, she was the chairperson for a NASA advisory. They studied and developed future outer solar system missions.
Public Speaking & Media
Carolyn often speaks about Cassini missions and planetary exploration and has appeared at conferences such as TED. She held a talk in 2007 named “The Human Journey” in which she spoke about the exploration of the Saturn moons.In this talk, she invited her audience to imagine a certain scene on the moon’s surface. This allowed the audience to visualise what she had seen.
She did another talk in 2009 for TED named “Could a Saturn moon harbour life?”Carolyn has also been a CNN guest analyst and consultant on astronomy as well as radio shows and other TV appearances explaining science.
Carolyn worked as an advisor for the film “Contact”. It was based on a novel by the astronomer, Carl Sagan and Jodie Foster, who played the heroine in the film,had used Carolyn as a real life model as a guide for her performance.
She has been in many interviews in which she talks about planetary explorationbut also about the conflict between science and religion. Carolyn has also written a number of articles that have been published on “The Sunday Times” and “Astronomy”.
Carolyn is also the CEO of Diamond Sky Productions which is a small companythat is devoted to the scientific use of planetary images and computer graphicsthat presents science to the public.
Awards & Honours
In 1999, Carolyn was selected as 1 of the 18 scientific leaders of the 21st Century. In 2008, she was chosen to be on Wired Magazine’s “Smart List: 15 People the Next President should listen to.”
Asteroid 7231 Porco was named in her honour and she was awarded the Isaac Asimov Science Award by the American Humanist Association. In 2009, Carolyn was awarded the The Huntington Library’s Science Writer Fellowship for 2010 and was also named as one of the “50 People That Matter today”.
In October 2009, she and Baba Amin Takfreshi were each awarded the LennartNilsson Award for their photographic work.
In October 2010, Carolyn was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal and in 2012, she was named one of the most 25 most influential people in space.
Carolyn Porco biography for kids: An American planetary scientist, Carolyn Porco is famous for her work on the joint NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, and the Voyager missions exploring the outer Solar System.