2009 – Carolyn Porco (Tafreshi/Porco)

Carolyn Porco combines the finest techniques of planetary exploration and scientific research with aesthetic finesse and educational talent. While her images, which depict the heavenly bodies of the Saturn system with unique precision, serve as tools for the world’s leading experts, they also reveal the beauty of the universe in a manner that is an inspiration to one and all.”

Planetary and imaging scientist Carolyn Porco (b. 1953) has been honored for the extraordinary series of photographs of Saturn and its ring system and moons taken from the unmanned Cassini-Huygens space probe. As Director and Imaging Team Leader of CICLOPS (Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations) of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Porco has been responsible for planning, processing, captioning and posting for public release images from the Cassini-Huygens mission to the Saturnian system, a joint effort by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Agency and European Space Agency.

Porco’s collaboration with colleagues has led to the publication of groundbreaking scientific papers on numerous topics, including planetary exploration and astronomy. Through her work with CICLOPS, she has been involved with the discovery of six of Saturn’s moons, several of its rings and water ice geysers erupting from the south pole of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus.

A veteran imaging scientist for the NASA Voyager mission that began in 2006 and captured tens of thousands of fly-by images of Uranus and Neptune, Porco has also been tasked with taking images of Pluto and Kuiper Belt when NASA’s New Horizons space probe reaches this region of space in 2015.