Carolyn Porco

Astronomer, Physicist

Stats:

Lived:
March 6, 1953 — Present

Birth Place:
New York City, New York

Famous:

Chief Accomplishment:
An imaging scientist (a multidisciplinary field concerned with the generation, collection, duplication, analysis, modification, and visualization of images) on the Voyager and Cassini missions to Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn.

Other Notable Accomplishments:

CEO of Diamond Sky Productions, a company presenting space images to the public.

A NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab astronomer and physicist. She has worked on many missions including Voyager (interplanetary/interstellar), Cassini (Saturn), and New Horizons (Pluto and the Kuiper Belt).

An expert in planet ring formation and dynamics thanks to the Cassini mission to Saturn. Rings are much more complicated than anyone initially thought, and her work has revealed their mysteries.

Continued Carl Sagan's mission to inspire the public through poetic descriptions, interactive outreach, and public speaking. She collaborated with Carl Sagan to take the "Pale Blue Dot" photo in 1990 using Voyager 1.

Science adviser to a number of political and education groups, working to make sure science gets the funding and support it needs.

Freethinker:

Rational Thinking for Rational Rules. Porco advocates for dogma-free education and politics that emphasize logic and rational thinking. She has said, "What I cannot fathom in an educated, supposedly advanced society like ours, where so much information is readily available to us, is the deliberate refusal to access and evaluate the facts as we know them, and from there, in sober fashion, construct guidelines for decision-making and behavior based on them."

The Scientific Method and Religion. As an advocate for the scientific method, Porco has said, "Its interesting to think about the scientific method as it applies to the existence of god. Because if someone were to give me the task of investigating the existence of god the way I would, say, investigate the motions of the bodies in the Saturn system, and required me to bring to bear on the matter all the training I had received about how to prove or disprove an idea, and then required me to write a scientific paper or publication on the subject, I can tell you right now that it would be a paper with no conclusions."

Low Maintenance. Annoyed by a sexist question from a reporter who wanted to know why Porco never married in her life, Porco quipped, "There are no high maintenance items in my house of any kind – pets, plants, or husbands."

Interesting Facts:

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.