Mark Showalter Shares the Thrill of Discovery

Mark ShowalterNeil Armstrong, Walter Cronkite, and William Shatner.

Three men, each with a unique connection to space exploration. Three men who also play a role in Mark Showalter's tale of discovery.

Showalter is a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View. Like many of his generation (he's in his 50's), Showalter was inspired by watching Armstrong walk on the moon to make space and science a part of his future plans.

It was while in college, Showalter says, that one night he saw Cronkite on the evening news tell of the discovery of Jupiter's jovian ring. The grainy image of squiggly lines intrigued Showalter. Just a few years later he would use the same data of NASA's Voyager mission that created that image, to make his first major discovery: Jupiter's gossamer rings.

His discovery's continued over the years: Saturn's moon, Pan; two rings and two moons around Uranus, and lastly, two moons orbiting Pluto.

A tweet from Shatner - the original Captain Kirk - contributed to the effort.

To see how, watch Garvin Thomas' story at NBCBayArea.com