Press Release

Cassini Imaging Leader Honored by Stony Brook Univ.

By SpaceRef Editor
May 21, 2009
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Dr. Carolyn Porco, an alumna of Stony Brook University and a planetary scientist who has played major roles in the exploration of the solar system, will be honored when Stony Brook University holds its annual Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 22 at 11:00 AM in Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Dr. Carolyn Porco will be presented with an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by University President Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny. A leading scholar in planetary sciences, Dr. Porco has made seminal contributions to her field.

Born and raised in New York City, Dr. Porco attended the university as an enthusiastic and feisty undergraduate, graduating from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in 1974. She received her Ph.D. in Geological and Planetary Sciences from the California Institute of Technology in 1983, after which she joined the faculty at the University of Arizona Department of Planetary Sciences and eventually served as a tenured faculty member from 1991 through 2001.

In the 1980s, Porco was an imaging scientist on the Voyager mission to Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. In 1990, she was selected as the leader of the imaging team for the Cassini mission to Saturn, which in 2004 placed a spacecraft in orbit around Saturn and dispatched an atmospheric probe to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. She is also an imaging scientist with the New Horizons mission to Pluto.

Dr. Porco is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute (SSI) in Boulder, Colorado and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder campus. At SSI, she is the Director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS), the center of uplink and downlink operations for the Cassini Imaging Science experiment and the place ( where Cassini images are processed and posted for release to the public.

Dr. Porco has appeared many times on television as a spokesperson for science and planetary exploration, and her popular writings and editorials have been published in magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, Scientific American and the Guardian.

Her contributions to planetary science and spacecraft exploration of the outer solar system were recognized in 1998 with the naming of Asteroid 7231 Porco in her honor, and in 2008 she was awarded the Isaac Asimov Science Award from the American Humanist Association.

In addition to her many scholarly and professional achievements, Dr. Porco has served twice as an advisor to Hollywood: once on the movie “Contact,” based on the Carl Sagan novel of the same name, and most recently on the newly released Paramount Pictures film “Star Trek.”

Dr. Porco was responsible for the proposal to send the ashes of renowned astrogeologist, Eugene Shoemaker, to the Moon. Through Dr. Porco’s efforts to secure a small capsule of his cremains aboard the Lunar Prospector in 1998, Dr. Shoemaker, a planetary scientist who had trained Apollo astronauts, became the first inhabitant of Earth sent to rest on another celestial body. (See

“Dr. Porco embodies all that Stony Brook University desires for its students in achieving success in an area of academia for which they have a true passion,” said President Kenny. “Her accomplishments are worthy of special distinction. She is an extraordinary individual who serves as an exemplary role model for all students, particularly young women pursuing careers in science.”

Considered one of the “flagship” campuses of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, and ranks among the top 100 national universities in America and among the top 50 public national universities in the country according to the 2008 U.S. News & World Report survey.

SpaceRef staff editor.