The Cassini spaceprobe, launched in 1997, was named after him and became the fourth to visit Saturn and the first to orbit the planet.
Cassini was the son of Jacopo Cassini, a Tuscan, and Giulia Crovesi. In 1648 Cassini accepted a position at the observatory at Panzano, near Bologna, to work with Marquis Cornelio Malvasia, a rich amateur astronomer, initiating the first part of his career. During his time at the Panzano Observatory, Cassini was able to complete his education under the scientists Giovanni Battista Riccioli and Francesco Maria Grimaldi. In 1650 the senate of Bologna appointed him as the principal chair of astronomy at the University of Bologna.
In San Petronio, Bologna, Cassini convinced church officials to create an improved sundial meridian line at the San Petronio Basilica, moving the pinhole gnomon that projected the Sun's image up into the church's vaults 66.8 meters (219 ft) away from the meridian inscribed in the floor. The much larger image of the Sun's disk projected by the camera obscura effect allowed him to measure the change in diameter of the Sun's disk over the year as the Earth moved toward and then away from the Sun. He concluded the changes in size he measured were consistent with Johannes Kepler's 1609 heliocentric theory, where the Earth was moving around the Sun in an elliptical orbit instead of the Ptolemaic system where the Sun orbited the Earth in a perfect circle.
Cassini remained in Bologna working until Colbert recruited him to come to Paris to help set up the Paris Observatory. Cassini departed from Bologna on 25 February 1669.
In 1669 Cassini moved to France and through a grant from Louis XIV of France helped to set up the Paris Observatory, which opened in 1671; Cassini would remain the director of the observatory for the rest of his career until his death in 1712. For the remaining forty-one years of his life Cassini served as astronomer/astrologer to Louis XIV ("The Sun King"); serving the expected dual role yet focusing the overwhelming majority of his time on astronomy rather than the astrology he had studied so much in his youth.