Madame Saturn: A Conversation with Carolyn Porco (Part 1)

Carolyn Porco and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Credit: Ryan Hadaller

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About This Episode

It’s just two kids from the Bronx sitting around talking about looking up as Neil deGrasse Tyson chats with planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, aka Madame Saturn, leader of the Cassini Imaging Science team. The two discuss how Carolyn’s spiritual questioning at age 13 led her to search for the meaning of life by exploring the universe, eventually working on the Voyager missions and the Cassini spacecraft mission to orbit Saturn and its moons. Carolyn shares stories about her first brush with Carl Sagan and how he showed people the spirituality in science and the study of astronomy. You’ll learn about the scientific value of photography in space exploration – and how Carl and Prof. Bruce Murray had to fight to put cameras on spacecraft. Plus, Neil and comic co-host Chuck Nice discuss how gravity helped Voyager on its “Grand Planetary Tour”, what the surface of Titan is like, and what Neil wanted to play with in the bath as a child instead of a rubber ducky.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Madame Saturn: A Conversation with Carolyn Porco (Part 1).

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  • Mitch

    I miss Eugene! Bring him back soon!

  • raibaru

    Really liked Dr. Porco’s story about her existentialist beginnings. I went through the same things with religions when I was young before I became more secular and fascinated with space. I’m willing to bet that it’s a common story.

  • Vianel

    This show is great. I used to stare at the sky and think, man knowing about our solar system doesn’t have much use, but then this radio show came along. I learn so much stuff. I’ve listened to every show. Also, I listen before going to bed. Great job everyone!

  • Vern Honie

    Why don’t we try to bring Cassini back to Earth? I understand the incredible difficulty involved with maneuvering it, and eventually slowing it down. However, if we got it into Earth’s orbit, wouldn’t that be great practice for eventually bringing in asteroids, and mining them? The Cassini would actually be worth bringing back, in my opinion, just to put it in a museum. It’d be really nice if we had some ability to capture some actual material from the rings of Saturn, and bring it back to Earth, also. I know it’s just mostly ice, but you could sell it to someone. They would probably think it was awesome to have a drop of water, from Saturn’s rings, inside of a golden wedding band, behind a small diamond window. That would be much much cooler than having a regular diamond, in my opinion.

  • mitch

    how come there’s no download link?

    • startalkradio

      Thanks for catching that glitch, Mitch. We’ve fixed the issue. If you look at the upper right corner of the player, you’ll see that the “download” icon is back. Click it and you can download the MP3.

  • wayne

    Just thinking out loud here but would it not be possible for the cassini to stay in orbit. and use this slingshot method to send it back round the planets again also to power this you can generate energy with motion and solar. is it not in are interest together as much information as possible and to make these missions work harder and last longer then they have done previously.

  • sepiae

    looking VERY much forward to listen to this one later! meanwhile looking through the Cassini Imaging Diary [see link above]. Some of the images are so mind-blowing and beautiful, they literally bring tears to my eyes.

  • ValerieWagner

    Madame Saturn–I absolutely understand that old esoteric angst; it brought me to Pantheism. Unfortunately I’m not a scientist but love you and Neil and other physicists that bring so much to science and the understanding of it.

  • Gina Kim

    OK, just how adorable was Neil when he is busting up laughing (mostly by himself) at that corny saturn “put a ring on it” joke (11:27)? This was such an enjoyable startalk interview. Carolyn Porco is my hero with a capitol H. Can’t wait for the part 2…

  • CArm MAdrigraal

    Always love me some Caroline Porco.

  • CAL

    I think the so uses chuck way too often as a co-host. What ever happen to Eugene? I’ve laughed the hardest whenever he was a co-host.

    • Addam Miller

      I have to agree. I have also noticed, through listening, that while Eugene started off as just a comedic take…he’s progressively become more and more scientifically literate. Asking some rather impressive questions at times. Things that even the professionals don’t think to ask. Even his quips end up being accurate more and more often (surprising even himself and Dr. Tyson).

  • stp479

    Wonderful show that encouraged everyone to follow their sense of wonder to whatever orbit it led to… To those refusing audio returns from the surface of Mars, do you also refuse any relationship that involves touch? Our world’s a tactile AND cerebral one so please, for the sake of future funding, indulge both when possible as sound directly from Mars would be as if we’d actually been touched by the universe.

  • stp479

    Wonderful show that encouraged everyone to follow their sense of wonder to whatever orbit it led to… To those refusing audio returns from the surface of Mars, do you also refuse any relationship that involves touch? Our world’s a tactile AND cerebral one so please, for the sake of future funding, indulge both when possible as sound directly from Mars would be as if we’d actually been touched by the universe.

  • Ben

    where are all the links to the photos and videos mentioned in the episode????

    • startalkradio

      Check out ciclops.org, Ben.

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  • Sup3rScript3d

    I identify amazingly with her story. My search for understanding has landed me deep into physics and mathematics. I’ve been through psychology, religion, invention, art, sports, fitness…and while most still give me a pleasant distraction from my existential angst, nothing compares with the sanity astronomy brings me.

  • Pingback: This Sunday: Accomplished Women, Strange Science, Urban Legends, Aliens, Powerful Beings and God. | StarTalk Radio Show by Neil deGrasse Tyson()

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