Carolyn C. Porco (born March 6, 1953) 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 Cassinimission currently in orbit around Saturn. She is also an imaging scientist on the New Horizons mission launched to Plutoon January 19, 2006. She is an expert on planetary rings and the Saturnian moon, Enceladus.
She has co-authored over 100 scientific papers on subjects ranging from the spectroscopy of Uranus and Neptune, the interstellar medium, thephotometry of planetary rings, satellite/ring interactions, computer simulations of planetary rings, the thermal balance of Triton’s polar caps, heat flow in the interior ofJupiter, and a suite of results on the atmosphere, satellites, and rings of Saturn from the Cassini imaging experiment.
Porco was responsible for the epitaph and proposal to honor the late renowned planetary geologistEugene Shoemaker by sending hiscremains to the Moon aboard theLunar Prospector spacecraft in 1998.
A frequent public speaker, Porco has given two popular lectures at TED as well as the opening speech for Pangea Day, a May 2008 global broadcast coordinated from six cities around the world, in which she described the cosmic context for human existence. Porco has also won a number of awards and honors for her contributions to science and the public sphere; for instance, in 2008 she was named by Wired magazine as one of '15 People the Next President Should Listen To.' In 2009, New Statesman named her as one of 'The 50 People Who Matter Today.' And in 2010 she was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal, presented by the American Astronomical Society for Excellence in the Communication of Science to the Public.
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