March 30, 2015 – Carolyn Porco, veteran planetary scientist and leader of the imaging team on NASA’s Cassini mission at Saturn, has accepted dual invitations to be a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and a Distinguished Scholar within the Department of Astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley. The Academy is a world-leading museum, research center, and educational institution with the largest, all-digital, planetarium in the country. UC Berkeley is the flagship University of the UC system.
These appointments will find Porco, for extended periods of time during the coming year, among scholars studying subjects that range from life in the Earth’s oceans and environmental science at the Academy, to exoplanets and the development of new ways to search for extraterrestrial intelligence at UC Berkeley.
The proximity to such diverse academic pursuits is especially enticing to Porco, who has spent the last decade focused on Saturn and its rings and moons. In particular, her personal research includes the small icy moon, Enceladus, now known to be home to a subsurface ocean with all the hallmarks of a place hospitable to life. She is hoping that new directions of research and public engagement emerge from her time in the Bay Area.
“I am so looking forward to this opportunity to work alongside my colleagues at Berkeley and the Academy”, said Porco. “I’m anticipating a great, mind-expanding rush to come from placing what we have found on Enceladus in the broader context of life within our solar system and beyond, and finding new ways to bring these connections to the public.”
Her hosts also find the prospects exciting.
Imke de Pater, a planetary scientist and chair of the Department of Astronomy at UC Berkeley said, “All of us, including students and research staff, are really looking forward to having Carolyn join us and working with her on topics of mutual interest while she is at Berkeley.”
The Academy scientists in Golden Gate Park couldn’t agree more.
“We are thrilled to have a scientist of Carolyn’s caliber spending time with us”, said Jon Foley, a renowned environmental scientist and the executive director of the California Academy of Sciences. “We are undergoing big changes in executing our mission to educate the public and explore our planet and universe. Having such a passionate and creative public advocate for science in our midst, someone who can make new connections between disciplines, will be inspirational and energizing for all of us.”
Meg Lowman, chief of Science and Sustainability whose department at the Academy will host Porco, said, “Carolyn is not only a role model for our staff in terms of her accomplishments and global reach, but she will be an inspiration to the youth who will meet her as part of public outreach at the Academy.”
Porco is known for her work on the Voyager and Cassini missions to the outer solar system and her award-winning efforts to engage the public in appreciation for the scientific enterprise. These efforts have extended across all media to television and the movies. She was the character consultant to the movie Contact (1997), based on Carl Sagan’s novel of the same name, the animation director and science consultant for the A&E television special on Voyager’s 25th anniversary, Cosmic Journey (2003), and science consultant on the 2009 Paramount Pictures film Star Trek.
Her contributions to planetary science and exploration were recognized in 1998 with the naming of asteroid 7231 Porco in her honor. In 1999, she was selected by the London Sunday Times as one of “18 scientific leaders of the 21st century”. In 2012, she was named one the 25 most influential people in space by TIME magazine.
Porco will continue in her roles as the leader of the Cassini imaging team, director of imaging operations at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and adjunct professor of astronomy at the University of Colorado. Her appointments in the Bay Area begin next month.
“I can’t believe my good fortune to be welcomed by such prestigious and forward-thinking institutions”, said Porco. “It’s going to be a great year.”
The Space Science Institute is a Boulder-based non-profit organization that aims to integrate research with education and public outreach, promoting inquiry-based learning and science literacy.