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Cassini scientist leaving UA


Citizen Staff Writer

In a blow to the University of Arizona’s exploration of outer space, planetary scientist Carolyn Porco will move to Boulder, Colo.

Porco, who joined UA’s faculty 17 years ago, was leader of the imaging team for the Cassini spacecraft. The probe, launched in 1997, is now photographing Jupiter as it heads toward a 2004 rendezvous with Saturn. Although some work on Cassini will remain at UA, Porco said she’ll take three to four staff members with her when she departs at the end of the spring semester.

She declined to reveal the budget of the project she is working on.

Besides continuing to lead Cassini’s imaging experiments, Porco plans to develop an IMAX movie about the mission. In Boulder, Porco, 47, will work for Southwest Research Institute, a non-profit research and development company. She will also be an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado.

“It’s time for me to put my energies where I can be most creative,” she said yesterday.

For the first five years in Boulder she probably won’t teach at the University of Colorado. “I like teaching, but if you want to do it well it’s very time consuming,” she said.

Porco, who is single, said she’s also grown weary of Tucson summers and the social scene here.

“I think there’s a lot more happening in Boulder. This (Tucson) seems like a sleepy retirement community and I’m not ready to retire yet,” she said. “I think it’s good for families and retired people, but it’s not that good for a single person.”

Jonathan Lunine, a UA planetary scientist who attended graduate school with Porco at the California Institute of Technology, said the department hoped she would stay in Tucson.

“She’s got a great sense of humor and we’ve spent a couple of decades talking casually about planetary science,” Lunine said. “That’ll be a lot harder to do from 800 miles away.”

Although Porco’s exit is a loss, Lunine noted that UA’s Planetary Image Research Laboratory will keep the school strong in the field. The laboratory’s work includes analyzing images from the Mars Global Surveyor and the Galileo probe that is orbiting Jupiter.

And UA planetary scientist Alfred McEwen, a member of the Cassini science team, said UA will retain representatives for all of the major experiments on Cassini and the Huygens probe it will release onto Saturn’s moon, Titan.

“The center of attention will move to Boulder but we’ll still be active,” he said.


Carolyn Porco, who has worked for UA on the Cassini planetary probe project, is leaving the university to move to Boulder, Colo.

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