As the leader of the Imaging Team on the Cassini mission to Saturn, Carolyn Porco interprets and shares the pictures coming back from this fascinating planet, its rings and its moons.
Planetary scientist Carolyn Porco studies and interprets the photos from the Cassini-Huygens mission, orbiting Saturn and its largest moon, Titan. She and a team of scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency have been analyzing the images that Cassini has been sending back since it left Earth in 1999. They've found many new rings and four new moons (so far). And they've produced breathtaking images and animations of the stormy face of Saturn, its busy rings, and its jumble of moons and moonlets.
Back in the mid-1980s, while still working on her doctorate, Porco was drafted onto a team at JPL that was crunching the mountains of data coming back from the Voyager fly-by of Saturn. Her work on the planet's "ringlets," and on a spoke pattern noticed in the rings, made an important connection between Saturn's rings and its magnetic field -- and cemented her connection with Saturn.
Her ongoing work at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPs) has two goals: to process and interpret the Cassini images for other scientists, and to make sure the images -- in all their breathtaking poetry and mystery and sheer Save-Image-As-Desktop awesomeness -- connect with the general public. She is an advocate for the exploration and understanding of planetary space, and her frequent talks (as well as her "Captain's Log" memos on the CICLOPS website) speak to everyone, scientist and nonscientist alike.