Right now researchers are hunting for extra-terrestrial life on several fronts. To find out just how close we might be to a breakthrough, astrophysicist Dr Graham Phillips visits telescopes, swims among the stromatolites on the remote West Australian coastline, and chats with scientists from around the world
Join the members of the historic Rosetta mission through the years as they launch, wait and then deploy the lander onto the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Experience the dramatic highs and lows of the first mission to land a probe on a comet in space.
2017 • Astronomy
A billion miles from home, running low on fuel, and almost out of time. After 13 years traversing the Saturn system, the spacecraft Cassini is plunging to a fiery death, becoming part of the very planet it has been exploring. As it embarks on its final assignment - a one-way trip into the heart of Saturn - Horizon celebrates the incredible achievements and discoveries of a mission that has changed the way we see the solar system. Strange new worlds with gigantic ice geysers, hidden underground oceans that could harbour life and a brand new moon coalescing in Saturn's magnificent rings. As the world says goodbye to the great explorer Cassini, Horizon will be there for with a ringside seat for its final moments.
Almost everything we know today about the beautiful giant ringed planet comes from Cassini, the NASA mission that launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. Since then, the space probe has been beaming home miraculous images and scientific data, revealing countless wonders about the planet, its rings and 62 moons - including some that could harbor life. As the mission approaches its final days in 2017, it attempts one last set of daring maneuvers - diving between the innermost ring and the top of Saturn's atmosphere. Aiming to skim less than 2000 miles above the cloud tops, no spacecraft has ever gone so close to Saturn, and hopes are high for incredible observations that could solve major mysteries about the planet's core. But such a daring maneuver comes with many risks and is no slam dunk. In fact, slamming into rocks in the rings is a real possibility. Join NASA engineers for the tense and triumphant moments as they find out if their bold re-programming has worked, and discover the wonders that Cassini has revealed over the years.
Planet Earth has been home to humankind for over 200,000 years, but with a population of 7.3 billion and counting and limited resources, this planet might not support us forever. Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive. With climate change, pollution, deforestation, pandemics and population growth, our own planet is becoming increasingly precarious.
2017 • Astronomy
The dream of sending humans to Mars is closer than ever before. In fact, many scientists think that the first person to set foot on the Red Planet is alive today. But where should the first explorers visit when they get there? Horizon has gathered the world's leading experts on Mars and asked them where would they go if they got the chance - and what would they need to survive? Using incredible real images and data, Horizon brings these Martian landmarks to life - from vast plains to towering volcanoes, from deep valleys to hidden underground caverns. This film also shows where to land, where to live and even where to hunt for traces of extraterrestrial life.
The Earth, the sun, the stars, and everything we can see, only comprise five percent of the universe. But what about the other 95 percent? Scientists are puzzling over dark matter and dark energy, the mysterious components that make up the rest.
A new age of space exploration, and exploitation, is dawning. But surprisingly, some of the boldest efforts at putting humans into space are now those of private companies started by a handful of maverick billionaire businessmen. Brian Cox gains exclusive access behind the scenes at Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Spaceport America, exploring what is really happening in privately financed space flight right now. From space tourism to asteroid mining, and even dreams of colonies on Mars, these new masters of the universe refuse to limit their imaginations. But are private companies led by Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk really going to be able to pull this off? How will they overcome the technical challenges to achieve it? And is it really a good idea, or just a fool's errand? Cox meets key players in the story - Bezos, founder of Blue Origin as well as Amazon, and Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. He wants to find out how entrepreneurs - and engineers - really plan to overcome the daunting challenges of human space travel. It certainly hasn't been easy so far. Jeff Bezos has sold a further billion dollars of Amazon stock this year to fund Blue Origin. Branson has been working on Galactic for more than a decade. Lives have been lost. And some companies have already all but given up. But real progress has been made too. The origins of the new space boom, the X-prize in 2004, proved that reusable space craft could be built by private enterprise. Now the challenge is to work out how to run reliable, safe, affordable services that will show a return on the massive financial investments. Sixteen years since Dennis Tito became the first civilian in space, Cox explores the hardware and companies that are aiming to make daily tourist flights to space. Beyond mass space travel, and even space mining and manufacturing, the dream of Elon Musk and others is true space exploration. His company, SpaceX, already delivers supplies to the International Space Station, and their next step is delivering astronauts too. But their true ambition is to ensure the survival of the human race by crossing our solar system and colonizing Mars in the next decade. Could commercial spaceflight companies eventually make us a space-faring civilization?
2017 • Astronomy
Just over 100 years ago, cutting into the brain was a terrifying prospect for both patient and surgeon. They could expect the result to be the surgeon bloodied and defeated, and the patient dead. From freak accidents involving crowbars through the skull to notorious lobotomies with icepicks, this programme reveals how, through mishap and misadventure, brain surgery has become the life-saving discipline it is today.
Twenty years after its launch, we bid farewell to the Cassini spacecraft as it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere in a planned death spiral. Productive right to the end, Cassini has rewritten the textbook on not only Saturn and its moons, but our whole solar system as well.
NASA may have just gotten one step closer to the answering the question: are we alone? The Spitzer Telescope has made a groundbreaking discovery of exoplanets that could be similar to our own. And as Kepler also continues its search, our understanding of the universe continues to be redefined.
While much of the information on our universe that we have acquired through studying the stars ultimately leads to more questions, this program accurately conveys what information we've learned since we began using Hubble and other super telescopes to explore distant regions of space.
2016 • Astronomy
The Sun created our Solar System and in a fit of cosmic cannibalism will engulf and destroy it. However, our Solar System will see many changes before the light of our star goes out. So, what will be happening with the planets over the next four billion years, before the Sun swallows us and them?
As we continue to discover the diversity of life on Earth, we are forced to stop and marvel at how tenacious and inventive life is. So, as we forge onward in our robotic explorations of other worlds, we shouldn't be too surprised to find other places where conditions seem to be right for life.
For millennia humans have seen our star, the Sun, through the Earth’s atmosphere. But the Space Age has given us a new perspective that has revealed the many faces of the Sun in X-rays, ultraviolet/visible light, heat, and radio. We reveal hidden secrets of the Sun, like the power of solar wind.
Earth has a companion in space so large that it rules our nights, our months, our ocean tides. Why Earth should have such a moon is one of the deepest mysteries of the Solar System. We tell the story of how the Earth’s satellite became the unlikely object of desire of the two Cold War superpowers.
For centuries the giant planets floated on the fringes of the solar system as distant objects in the eyepieces of astronomers. But in December 1973 mankind had its first close encounter with Jupiter. We chart the story of our discovery of these massive planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
This is the story of pioneering missions to neighboring planets and our first glimpses of their awe-inspiring terrains. From the giant lava plains of Venus to the volcanoes on Mars that dwarf Mount Everest, we journey around the rocky planets and then to the icy moons of Jupiter, Saturn and beyond.
We reveal the planetary enigmas on our doorstep and embark on the New Horizons voyage to photograph Pluto. Will our encounter with this tiny ball of ice and rock and the trillions of icy objects beyond it paint a clearer picture of how the planets came to be?
Scientists are only now starting to unravel the secrets of comets. Often referred to as dirty snowballs, they contain ice and elements from the very start of the universe. Some theorize that a comet, crashing into our planet, brought with it the organic material that started life on Earth. Spacecraft continues to offer new information on their makeup, from bringing back samples from a comet's tail to direct contact when a NASA-launched craft slammed into the comet Tempel-1.
An inspirational portrayal of the triumphs and tragedies punctuating the first 50 years of NASA's manned missions. From the pioneering Mercury launches to the daring Gemini project, this program reveals the epic behind the scenes struggle that ultimately carried men to the Moon.
2015 • Astronomy
We take viewers into the tangle of magnetic fields and super-hot plasma that vent the Sun’s rage in dramatic flares, violent solar tornadoes, and the largest eruptions in the solar system: Coronal Mass Ejections. What’s driving these strange phenomena? How do they affect planet Earth?
2016 • Astronomy
NASA's Juno probe has been orbiting the largest planet on our Solar System, the gas giant Jupiter, since July 4, 2016. As the February 2017 closest-to-the-planet flyby approaches, what secrets has its moon, Juno, revealed thus far and how has a simple valve altered a decade of planning?
Since its formation in the early 60’s, NASA has continued to be the leading power in space exploration. Working with other space agencies, it has contributed substantially to the ongoing exploration of our universe, achieving incredible firsts that span the decades.
Part 1 of this series chronicles NASA’s finest accomplishments in space exploration – the moments that inspired generations over the last 50 years. Re-discover the highlights of mankind’s progress including achievements such as the Freedom 7.
In August 1977, the Big Ear Radio-telescope in Ohio received a strange signal from the Sagittarius constellation while searching for intelligent extra-terrestrial life. It had a duration of 72 seconds and an intensity 30 times higher than usual. Named the WAW signal (as an engineer wrote ‘WOW’ on the data as it came in!), it is still being considered as one of the best examples of having being sent by intelligent extraterrestrial life. But, nothing has revolutionised the search of extra-terrestrial intelligent life as much as the recent discovery by the Kepler Satellite, of thousands of Earth-like planets where life could be possible. Join the debate with this stunning one-hour documentary from 2015, as we ask Is Anybody Out There?
2015 • Astronomy
Harvard professor and best-selling author, Dr. Lisa Randall, simplifies and expounds upon some of modern physics' most basic questions. What is dark matter and dark energy? What is the fundamental nature of space and time? What do we not know yet about the universe and its fundamental properties?
Volcanoes have long helped shape the Earth. But what is less well known is that there are volcanoes on other planets and moons that are even more extraordinary than those on our own home planet. Horizon follows an international team of volcanologists in Iceland as they draw fascinating parallels between the volcanoes on Earth and those elsewhere in the solar system. Through the team's research, we discover that the largest volcano in the solar system - Olympus Mons on Mars - has been formed in a similar way to those of Iceland, how a small moon of Jupiter - Io - has the most violent eruptions anywhere, and that a moon of Saturn called Enceladus erupts icy geysers from a hidden ocean. Computer graphics combined with original NASA material reveal the spectacular sights of these amazing volcanoes. Along the way, we learn that volcanoes are not just a destructive force, but have been essential to the formation of atmospheres and even life. And through these volcanoes of the solar system, scientists have discovered far more about our own planet, Earth - what it was like when Earth first formed, and even what will happen to our planet in the future.
For decades some have suspected that there might be others out there, intelligent beings capable of communicating with us, even visiting our world. It might sound like science fiction, but today scientists from across the globe are scouring the universe for signals from extraterrestrials. Scientists have been searching the cosmos for strange signals like the Lorimer Burst for more than 50 years. The film ends with scientists' latest search for extraterrestial intelligence. Horizon obtained exclusive access to film researchers at the Green Bank Telescope searching for radio signals from Tabby's Star, a star so mysterious that some scientists believe it might be surrounded by a Dyson Sphere, a vast energy collector built by advanced aliens.
This is the complete story of NASA's Moon Missions, from Apollo 1 to Apollo 17, told for the first time using 4K and HD original footage taken by astronauts from the most iconic space voyages in history. The world famous Apollo missions are some of the greatest feats ever accomplished by man. With rare archive footage and unprecedented access to life on board the Apollo spacecrafts, this stunning one-hour special brings scientific history to life.
2015 • Astronomy
The film, which follows a group of teens at NASA's space camp as they learn about the science and technology behind a trip to Mars, also features commentary by science popularizers Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku; astronaut Suni Williams, and Andrew Weir, author of The Martian. But it's not the grownups who make the film; none of them, with the exception of Williams, has any shot at all of walking on Mars. It's the kids, who can dream that dream, who are the deserved focus of the narrative.
2017 • Astronomy
The Orion Nebula is a interstellar cloud situated in the Milky Way, south of Orion's Belt. In a 2-year effort, scientists create a mosaic of over 100 images at the tip of Orion's sword to discover four massive young stars. What do they tell us about how planetary systems are formed?
3,000- years-old, the Nebra Sky Disk is the oldest sky map in the world, predating Babylonian and Egyptian sky maps. Found in Germany, the Nebra Sky Disk is an archaeological mystery. Who were the people who designed this beautiful and functional ancient artifact with exact proportions?
Scientists using the Hubble Telescope study vivid images from 12 billion and more light years away and observe that many galaxies cluster together like -- soap bubbles! Analyzing factors like dark matter and gravitational lensing, how can astronomers confirm this amazing bubble structure?
In summer 1969, Apollo 11 succeeded as the first manned mission to land on the moon. The next challenge was to design and build the first exploration vehicle. It had to allow astronauts to explore the moon's surface, but it had to fit in just a meter square space!
Were "little green men" trying to contact us? Over 40 years ago, extremely constant pulses were detected reaching the Earth from outer space. It caused a great sensation. Using a radio telescope larger than a baseball field, scientists looked for the source of these signals and found - pulsars.
Even with a surface temperature of -180C, Saturn's moon, Titan, could be another Earth. There's evidence of dunes made of quantities of organic material that could contain the building blocks for DNA. Astrobiologists are conducting studies on the possibility that life could be present on Titan.
Telescopes on six solar observation satellites are currently monitoring the sun. The satellites include Japan's Hinode and the SDO developed by the United States. Solar activity (flares, sunspots) is at its lowest since modern observation began - what implications does this have for our Earth?
There are Black Holes, and then there are Monster Black Holes -- containing several million to ten billion times the mass of our Sun! They've been discovered in the center of many galaxies. But they don't just absorb everything around them...in fact, they may be key to forming new galaxies.
Einstein, Oppenheimer, and other physicists and astronomers wrestled with the concept of Black Holes. With relentlessly powerful gravitational pull, black holes suck in anything that comes near them, but do they? As the study of black holes progresses, science finds more mysteries than solutions.
An asteroid colliding with the Earth is not a just Hollywood fantasy. NASA and the Space Guard Foundation develop deflection plans to save the Earth from a comet, meteor or asteroid with Earth in its trajectory. Take a look at how the world is working together to keep our skies safe.
The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, luminous in the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere, are celestial bodies shrouded in mystery, but recent observations have revealed some startling facts about them. They are survivors of galaxies formed in the early stages of the Universe.
Look up at the night sky, and you see countless shining stars. Our galaxy has 100 billion of them. Astronomers are now hunting for clues that will reveal "the first star" that transformed the ancient universe and led to the creation of everything that followed: galaxies, planets and life itself.
Extraterrestrial life = Science Fiction. Not so fast! -- the Cassini probe has provided photos of Enceladus, where scientists have found geysers of water vapor. And then there is Gliese 581g, a planet with Earth-like conditions....what would life forms look like in these watery environments?
The story of how we discovered Dark Matter and what we do and don't know about this mysterious substance. Did Vera Rubin discover the glue holding galaxies together? What composes dark matter? What are Dark Stars and what is super symmetry, the potential answer to the questions around Dark Matter?
In the Orion constellation, Betelgeuse, a red star 1,000 times the size of the Sun, is an old star that scientists predict will soon come to a violent end. Will we see a supernova explosion 100 times brighter than a full moon in our lifetimes? Will the explosion release rays harming life on Earth?
Could Mars have ever harbored life? Thanks to NASA's latest Mars rover Curiosity, scientists are finding clues to this profound question. This program tracks the first year of Curiosity's adventure, and confirms that an ancient environment could have supported life on Mars.
Could human settlements on Mars become reality as early as 100 years from now? Artificial micro organisms created with the latest techniques in synthetic biology could be used to produce resources such as iron, energy, and food directly on the planet itself. What would this new "Earth" look like?
NASA has taken us to the outer reaches of our Solar System, but there are still many mysteries to explore. New probes are being designed to look at our sun, the deep oceans of icy moons, and perhaps even our closest neighboring system - Alpha Centauri.
A voyage a decade in the making, the New Horizons probe has travelled to the end of our Solar System to reveal a world unlike any other, Pluto. Now, as it heads deep into the Kuiper Belt, those responsible for its magnificent journey share their fears, joy and hope for this piano-sized explorer.
The inner planets, Mercury and Venus, orbit closest to the Sun, making them literally an Inferno of heat. NASA and other space agencies have attempted to learn more about these rocky planets. Follow the plucky probes that attempted to decipher the secrets of the Solar System's inner circles of hell.
Cassini-Huygens has given us a more detailed account of Saturn than we could have ever imagined. Breathtaking images of Saturn and its sparkling rings, a massive 6-sided polar storm, and 62 moons - including the most bizarre worlds in our Solar System -- we have seen them all thanks to Cassini.
Voyager 1 and 2 are truly the probes that just won’t quit. Launched almost 40 years ago these twin probes continue to stun the world. They've explored all the giant outer planets of our solar system, 48 of their moons, and are now leaving the solar system, on a journey into interstellar space.
This is the story of the most extraordinary journey in human exploration, the Voyager space mission. In 1977 two unmanned spacecraft were launched by NASA, heading for distant worlds. It would be the first time any man-made object would ever visit the farthest planets of the solar system - Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus. On the way the Voyagers would be bombarded by space dust, fried by radiation and discover many of the remarkable wonders of the solar system. Now, at the end of 2012, 35 years and 11 billion miles later, they are leaving the area of the sun's influence. As they journey out into the galaxy beyond they carry a message from Earth, a golden record bolted to the side of each craft describing our civilisation in case of discovery by another. This is the definitive account of the most intrepid explorers in Earth's history.
2012 • Astronomy
In 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 captured the iconic 'Blue Marble': the first photograph ever taken by an astronaut of the entire Earth. This photo had a profound effect on our perception of ourselves. Since then, Nasa has taken millions more. In this epic, powerful and revelatory documentary, a new generation of astronauts, including Tim Peake, use those images of the Earth from space to reveal the astonishing transformation humanity has wrought in the 45 years since 'Blue Marble'. Together, the astronauts provide an armchair tour of the change they've witnessed from orbit, as humankind etches our presence on the planet. Using stunning time-lapse sequences, the programme reveals how we are reshaping our world, for better and for worse: from the sprawling megacities of China to vast desert farms in the Middle East and from the melting snowcap of Kilimanjaro to giant solar arrays in Nevada.
2017 • Astronomy
What if you could get behind the wheel and race through space? We scale down the Solar System to the continental United States and place the planets along the way to better appreciate the immense scale of the Universe. See space as never before, with Mars looming over the Freedom Tower and Jupiter towering above the Lincoln Memorial. Join former astronaut Chris Hadfield - a YouTube sensation for his performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station - and his interstellar hitchhikers Michio Kaku and astronomers Derrick Pitts and Laura Danly. It’s a joyride from coast to coast - and from the sun to Pluto.
2017 • Astronomy
The attempt to send and land astronauts on Mars risks billions of dollars and the lives of those brave enough to attempt it. Is the possible benefit really worth the risk? And is it really achievable? Guiding us through this ethical and scientific minefield is Dr Kevin Fong. Kevin's diverse background in astrophysics, aeronautics and medicine makes him uniquely placed to understand the technical and human challenges of this perilous journey. With the help of the BBC's rich archive and a cast of supporting experts, Kevin leads us through the journey to Mars stage by stage. For Kevin, not only is this the toughest journey we will ever attempt, it is one that he feels we ultimately must make if we are to survive as a species.
2017 • Astronomy
Europa - an icy moon of Jupiter 485 million miles away from Earth - may be our best hope for finding alien life in our solar system. Everywhere we find water on Earth, we find life. What does this mean for the search for life beyond Earth? Scientists believe that on Europa there is a liquid ocean buried beneath its icy crust. To find out if this alien ocean holds life, well need to get there, penetrate the ice shell, and navigate in an alien sea. In this episode of Explorer, well plunge headlong into the challenges of discovery on an alien world. Well meet the scientists, adventurers, and engineers who are determined to launch a mission to Europa - and follow them through the challenges, frustrations, and triumphs that come with planning a distant mission to an alien world. Through high-end CGI and quests to the edge of our planet, well go on a journey to and alien moon called Europa. To answer the basic question: Are we alone in the universe?
2010 • Astronomy
This visually stunning program chronicles a sweeping journey, from 1609 when Galileo revealed mankind's place in the galaxy to 2009, the International Year of Astronomy. Narrated by NOVA's Neil deGrasse Tyson, the compelling program takes viewers on an adventure through the heavens and around the globe, visiting the world's leading astronomers, cosmologists and observatories. The Interstellar Studios production team traveled the globe to interview leading astronomers and cosmologists from the world's renowned universities and observatories. The producers sought the most acute minds at great astronomical centers including the European Southern Observatory, Institute for Astronomy, SETI Institute, Space Telescope Science Institute, Anglo-Australian Observatory, and Harvard University. They journeyed across five continents to visually write the story of the past and the future of telescopes, astronomy, and our ever-changing perception of the cosmos. Compelling interviews throughout the film leave no stone unturned. A carefully chosen array of today's leading astronomers explain concepts ranging from Galileo's act of revealing the telescopic cosmos to humanity and challenging religious teachings of the day, to the latest discoveries in space, including startling new ideas about life on other planets and dark energy – a mysterious vacuum energy that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. On the horizon, viewers learn of emergent telescopes the size of stadiums. With unprecedented resolution and light gathering, these enormous new instruments will look back to the initial moments of the Big Bang and – like Galileo's first telescopic observations – will reshape our model of the universe.
2009 • Astronomy
Can Jupiter unlock the secrets of Earth’s formation? How did a team engineer a spacecraft to endure a toxic mix of radiation and gaseous turbulence? After a five-year journey, the moment of truth is finally here. Jupiter: Close Encounter delivers a comprehensive, hour-long look at the unprecedented, amazing, and utterly extreme journey of NASA’s heavily armoured Juno Spacecraft on an odyssey to the largest planet in the solar system. Anchored by DAILY PLANET Co-Host Dr. Dan Riskin from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, Jupiter: Close Encounter follows NASA’s Juno Spacecraft mission as it attempts to enter a “polar orbit” around the king of the the solar system for the first time ever on July 4. The landmark mission will study the planet’s spectacular auroras, seek the inner-most core, and wade into Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The gripping one-hour special introduces viewers to the dedicated and incredible team behind the high stakes-mission – scientists determined to provide new answers to the mystery of the solar system, Earth, and life itself.
2016 • Astronomy
What would happen if the sun took out our electrical power grid for an entire year? It may sound like the plot of a sci-fi movie, but this doomsday scenario could actually happen. Despite its calm appearance, the sun is a violent place, constantly releasing huge masses of energy known as coronal mass ejections. These storms have hit the earth before. The last big one struck more than 150 years ago in the Victorian era taking out worldwide telegraph service. The impact of a similar storm would be far more destructive in our modern age of hyper-connected telecommunication and total reliance on electricity and electronics. Fortunately scientists and engineers are building the world's largest solar telescope and launching the first ever spacecraft to fly to the sun to help us predict these potentially devastating events - and prepare for them.
2017 • Astronomy
Discoveries of new planets have revealed countless worlds much stranger than Earth. Some of these strange worlds don't have stars; others are made out of diamonds. Will we ever find a planet like Earth, or are these distant worlds stranger than fiction?
Dark matter is the biggest mystery of the cosmos. Scientists know that it has been vital to the universe since its birth, and new discoveries reveal that it could create black holes, cause mass extinctions, and might even shape life on Earth itself.
Life once existed on Mars, but a series of devastating mass extinctions have made present-day life nearly impossible. The latest science shows how Martian life keeps bouncing back as it transforms from a watery world like Earth into a desert planet.
The first close-up images of Pluto revealed unimaginable secrets of this mysterious frozen world. Now, scientists investigate if Pluto is home to a warm ocean of liquid water beneath its surface, and whether this underground ocean could harbour life.
Landing humans on Mars will be hard, but keeping them alive will be even harder. NASA scientists are on the verge of designing some of the most innovative rockets and training the astronauts who will pilot them.
Scientists and modern explorers are determined to send humans to Mars; as NASA builds its first spacecraft to carry astronauts to Mars and tech visionaries devise extraterrestrial colonies, future on Mars might be a reality.
The most amazing images of the universe captured by the space telescope, and a look at plans to launch a new and more advanced satellite in 2018. In this updated version of "Hubble's Amazing Journey” we reveal some of Hubble's latest observations: It has produced some of the most awe-inspiring images ever taken of the universe. But what is often forgotten about the Hubble Space Telescope is that after its launch 25 years ago it was originally labelled an embarrassing and expensive flop.
2016 • Astronomy
Recent discoveries could explain how supermassive black holes grow so big, one of the universe's most mysterious questions. Neither dark matter nor cannibalism can fully explain these monsters, but the latest science might finally provide an answer.
Black holes are the least understood places in the universe, where the rules of physics collapse. We go inside the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way to uncover terrifying secrets about parallel universes, wormholes, and space-time.
There is a hellish planet in our solar system; covered in thick dense clouds and roasted by colossal temperatures. Incredibly this is a vision of Earth's future. To understand how our world will be destroyed we need to look at Earth's evil twin Venus.
Beneath the hood of your car lies the history of the Universe. The iron in your chassis, the gold in your stereo and the copper in your electronics all owe their existence to violent cosmic events that took place billions of years ago.
Is there another Earth out there with liquid oceans, rocky continents and life like us? Astronomers seek the answer with spectroscopy, direct imaging and telescopes. They hope to find evidence of atmospheres, magnetospheres and signs of life.
The first second of the Universe, the creation of everything when space, time, matter and energy burst into existence. It is the most important second in history, which seals the Universe's fate and defines everything that comes after - including us.
Beneath Jupiter's swirling clouds lie our solar system's deepest secrets: from its violent youth, through the birth of life to the death of the sun. Now, scientists are unlocking these secrets and discovering that every living thing exists thanks to Jupiter.
How and when will the Universe end? Gravity and dark matter are poised to annihilate the Universe in a big crunch. Expansion and dark energy may tear it apart. Or, a phase transition could kill us tomorrow in a cosmic death bubble.
The Earth is an amazing place. It provides everything needed to sustain billions of creatures, plants and human civilization. We owe our very existence today to the planet's turbulent past. Our world was formed by a series of cataclysms, from the most powerful blast in the Universe to a planetary collision that could have destroyed it. Yet without these events, the Earth would not exist. Nor we. Could the same extraordinary chain of events have created other earth-like planets elsewhere in the Universe? Inhabited by creatures like us? The odds seem slim. But the incredible story of the birth of our world reveals that earths must be abundant. The question is no longer "are we alone" but "how far away are our neighbors?"
Asteroids have a bad reputation as deadly rocks from space. They wiped out the dinosaurs and will be back for us. But that's only half the story. Ancient asteroids built the Earth. And they may have brought life to its barren surface. Asteroids will shape our future as much as our past. They are the perfect location for deep space colonies and could be the stepping stones that eventually send humans out into the cosmos. From icy worlds with more fresh water than Earth to flying mountains of pure metal, a hundred miles wide, scientists are striving to unlock their secrets. Could these enigmatic space rocks hold the key to how life in the Universe arises and is extinguished?
We think of comets as beautiful glowing balls of light streaking across our skies with their long sweeping tails, yet comets are so much more than just a cosmic firework display. Comets have a uniquely important place in modern science. As time machines from the early universe, they could hold the key to unlock the secrets of the cosmos. Comets could even be the origin of life itself. We follow the incredible odyssey of a comet as it sails through the solar system, watching it's every move as it evolves from a dormant chunk of ice and rock into a tumbling, violently active nucleus engulfed in a gaseous haze. What we learn is a revelation; comets are even more mysterious and fascinating than we had ever imagined.
Orbits are the dynamics that drive the universe. From the smallest asteroid to the largest super-cluster, everything in the universe is in orbit. We owe our very existence to the stability of earth's orbit — it gave us life and keeps us safe. But we are the freaks. Everywhere else we look we find orbits are chaotic, unstable, and violent. Beyond our solar system we find planets that are blow-torched, stars that eat each other, and black holes that destroy everything in their path. Yet on the very largest scale, orbits are also a creative force. clashing galaxies give birth to new stars and new worlds. on the galactic scale orbits even construct the fabric of the universe itself.
The Universe is a magnetic minefield, with cosmic bombs detonating everywhere. Our own Sun regularly spits out lethal and spectacular flares, capable of battering our power and communications systems here on Earth, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Far out in space, spinning star systems crackle and explode, magnetic monsters rip worlds apart, star-quakes shoot out beams of devastating energy, and galactic flamethrowers fire gamma-rays half way across the Universe. Scientists are only now beginning to comprehend the true variety of the Universe's arsenal. As we uncover the most dangerous megaflares in the cosmos, the question is, will we find Earth in the firing line?
We once thought that our solar system was unique: The only place you could find planets in the entire Universe. Now we know better. For the last twenty years we have been discovering planets at an amazing rate, but they are nothing like we expected. These are truly wild worlds, a collection of monsters. From deep-frozen, toxic snowballs, to scorched and boiling nightmares: Every one is worlds apart from the habitable paradise we know and love here on Earth. Having so far only discovered this zoo of planetary oddballs we must face the question: Is every planet out there a planet from hell?
Tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, lightning and floods – for us these destructive forces are symptoms of Earth's creative energy. The weather on Earth is one of the drivers for life and even the most violent and destructive storms create new opportunities for life to flourish. In our quest to discover if we are alone in the universe, we have recently hit upon a surprising new approach — we shouldn't just look for worlds, we should look for weather. What is true of Earth could also be true of other planets throughout the whole universe. Across the immense distances of space, find chaotic weather — find that megastorm — and maybe we will find alien life.
The first episode of this series focuses on a subject that has fascinated scientists for hundreds of years - stars. Right now in the Universe's giant furnaces stars are being born. See how their creation changed the cosmos forever, leading to planets and life itself.
Scientists have started looking to the heavens and wondering what the weather might be like on other planets. Today, we are witnessing the birth of extra-terrestrial meteorology. They began with our solar system, sending spacecraft to explore its furthest reaches, and now the latest telescopes are enabling astronomers to study planets further afield. Our exploration of the universe is revealing alien worlds with gigantic storm systems that encircle entire planets, supersonic winds and extreme temperatures. On some planets, temperatures are so hot that the clouds and rain are believed to be made of liquid lava droplets, and on other planets it is thought to rain precious stones. We thought we had extreme weather on Earth, but it turns out that it is nothing compared to what's out there.
Four astronomers celebrate 50 years of work and friendship by going on a road trip to revisit some of the world's greatest observatories. In California, a world leader in observational astronomy at a time when America's space programme was at its height, the astronomers spent their formative years developing friendships that would last a lifetime, and making scientific discoveries that would change the course of history. Together they represent the most productive period astronomy has ever had. Their journey through the southwestern United States allows them to see once again the places and landscape they explored as young men. Now in their 70s, they share their reflections on a life spent looking at the universe. Star Men celebrates the history of stargazing: the inventions and discoveries that have enabled us to learn so much about the universe, but more importantly to understand how much more we have yet to discover.
2016 • Astronomy
A spectacular journey into the depths of space: In August 1977, NASA launches one of its most daring missions in space flights. The Deep Space orbiters Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are shot into space. The task of the two orbiters: exploring the outer gas planets in our solar system. More than 30 years later, the two orbiters have traveled a distance of 15 billion miles and still send unique data to Earth. Countless recordings of these orbiters still serve as the only footage of the two planets Uranus and Neptune, and their moons. After more than 30 years of flight Voyager 1 is the farthest from Earth object that mankind has ever created. THE VOYAGER SHOW: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE demonstrates all the technical, historical and astronomical details of the fascinating Voyager missions that continue to this day.
2010 • Astronomy
Brilliantly narrated by film and television legend Sir Patrick Stewart, Journey To Space gives a sweeping overview of humanity’s accomplishments in space, as well as our ongoing activities and future plans. Journey To Space puts into historical context the magnificent contributions made by the Space Shuttle program and its intrepid space pioneers. It uses the most spectacular space footage – including unique views of Earth and operations in space – such as deploying and repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. It then goes on to show how the shuttle launched and assembled the International Space Station (ISS). Together, these programs have taught us how to live, build and conduct scientific experiments in space. The ISS will continue operating in space until 2024, and the film shows how it is building a foundation for the next giant leaps into space, concluding with a fascinating, realistic scenario of how astronauts will actually get to Mars, live there for long durations, and then return home after a two-and-a-half-year mission.
2015 • Astronomy
Voyager has had a profound effect on our knowledge of the cosmos. Its mission was supposed to last five years but remains ongoing, fundamentally changing our understanding of the solar system. Featuring contributions from key scientists, we’ll explore what’s been achieved and what happens next.
An exploration of the dramatic fate of our future descendants, the technology they'll need to survive the end of this world billions of years from now and our options for colonizing and starting again on a new planet somewhere far from Earth.
From the mission that saw Pluto for the first time to the Mars rovers, a new breed of explorers are risking their careers, and even their lives, to lead humanity to worlds we have never seen and tackle the mysteries of life itself.
"This film documents an event that has never taken place – man's first encounter with intelligent life from space". We've been fantasizing about an extraterrestrial visit for decades, but what would happen if it actually took place? How would we cope? Should we be afraid? These and many other questions are addressed in this philosophical film about a hypothetical initial contact with aliens. Scientists and space affairs specialists at the UN and NASA and in the British government cooperate in this cinematic simulation of the undoubtedly exciting meeting between extraterrestrial life and humanity. The interviewees speak directly to the unknown entities as if they've already arrived. From their own fields – politics, theology, sociology, biology or space science – they ask probing questions. What are you doing here? Do you have a sense of right and wrong? Do you carry bacteria that could make us sick? Are we hazardous to your immune system? Information specialists in the British government show how a first summit in this situation could go. How do you inform the public? Will countries work together? Is there a danger involved? Above all, the alien visit raises questions about the relation between our own history of exploration, colonization and warfare, and the expectations with which we approach the unknown. This is a journey beyond terrestrial perspective, revealing the fears, hopes, and rituals of a species forced not only to confront alien life forms, but also its own self image.
2015 • Astronomy
After visiting the Moon, humanity seeks to explore deep space and learn to live beyond the Earth. This requires extensive experimentation, and the building of NASA's first space station - Skylab. Thus begins a new stage in space exploration, heralding the replacement of rivalry with partnership; The International Space Station unites over a dozen nations - with Japanese, Canadian and European astronauts aiming to complete it by 2010. Meanwhile NASA's greatest asset - the Hubble Space Telescope - reveals what is waiting for us deep in space, having begun its life as NASA's most famous mistake.
With repeated triumphs and new challenges comes increasing risk, until loss breaks the pattern. The white-knuckle suspense thriller of Apollo 13's famous near-disaster is only a triumphant prelude to darker moments ahead. The launch of the space shuttle program promises routine trips to Earth orbit for many new astronauts. But just when that promise seems fulfilled, routine shuttle launches begin to bore the public. NASA responds by training a school-teacher to fly, in order to teach children lessons from space. Christa McAuliffe's life is tragically cut short as she and the rest of the crew perish aboard the shuttle Challenger. All missions are halted. Eventually the shuttle returns to orbit, for fifteen years of successful missions until disaster strikes again with the shocking loss of Columbia. It would be the beginning of the end for the shuttle.
To land a human being on another celestial body will be the first step to living beyond our planet. The breathless pace and daring of the Apollo program sees NASA master previously unimagined tasks in the attempt to achieve the most incredible accomplishment in the history of human endeavor. From the ashes of tragedy on Apollo 1 emerges a determination that puts Apollo 8 in orbit around the Moon ahead of schedule. Apollo 9 and 10 each break bold new ground and pave the way for something few dared to believe was possible. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon and return safely to earth, the whole planet throws them a party.
Born of the Cold War, NASA moves stridently from disastrous rocket tests to the glorious conclusion of the Gemini Program. We experience the massive challenges of sending a man into space and how, despite many setbacks, the astronauts proved that the key element to exploration would be human resourcefulness, in space as well as on the ground. NASA veterans describe these early missions as the hardest of all - the first, uncertain steps towards a new frontier. Building on the success of the pioneering Mercury program, Project Gemini gives NASA the experience and confidence to take the next giant leap - to land men on the Moon.
Set to the words of Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot is an animation that situates human history against the tapestry of the cosmos. Using a eclectic combination of art styles woven seamlessly together through music and visuals, the animation seeks to remind us that regardless of our differences, we are one species living together on the planet we call Earth.
2015 • Astronomy
The hunt for aliens is on! After a distinguished career in cosmology Professor Martin Rees, the astronomer royal, has taken up the search for extra-terrestrials. Looking for aliens is no longer science fiction - it is a question that's engaging some of the greatest minds in science. As our knowledge of the universe has increased, we're getting closer to answers. Many scientists now think we live in galaxy with a billion Earth-like planets, many of which may be teeming with life. But what kind of life? Has anything evolved into beings we could communicate with? This film gets inside the minds of the scientists considering one of the most exciting and profound questions we can ask - are we alone in the universe? Professor Rees thinks we may have our idea of what an alien is like all wrong. If he's right, it's not organic extra-terrestrials we should look for, it's machines.
2016 • Astronomy
This is the story of how our solar system will be transformed by the aging sun before coming to a spectacular end in about eight billion years. Astronomers can peer into the far future to predict how it will happen by analysing distant galaxies, stars and even planets in their final moments. In this film, Horizon brings these predictions to life in a peaceful midwestern town that has a giant scale model of the solar system spread out all over the city. As it ages, the sun will bloat into a red giant star, swallowing planets... as well as half the town. The fate of the Earth itself hangs in the balance. How will the solar system end?
The oceans define the earth. They are crucial to life and we used to think that they were unique to our blue planet. But we were wrong. It has recently been discovered that there are oceans all over our solar system, and they are very similar to our own. And now scientists are going on an epic journey in search of new life in places that never seemed possible. Nasa is even planning to dive to the depths of a strange, distant ocean in a remarkable submarine. Horizon discovers that the hunt for oceans in space is marking the dawn of a new era in the search for alien life.
Prof Jim Al-Khalili tackles the biggest subject of all, the universe, through a series of critical observations and experiments that revolutionised our understanding of our world. In this second part, Professor Jim Al-Khalili carries us into the distant future to try to discover how the universe will end - with a bang or a whimper? He reveals a universe far stranger than anyone imagined and, at the frontier of our understanding, encounters a mysterious and enigmatic force that promises to change physics forever.
Prof Jim Al-Khalili tackles the biggest subject of all, the universe, through a series of critical observations and experiments that revolutionised our understanding of our world. Part 1: Beginning Professor Jim Al-Khalili takes us back in time to tackle the greatest question in science: how did the universe begin? Uncovering the origins of the universe is regarded as humankind's greatest intellectual achievement. By recreating key experiments Jim unravels the cosmic mystery of science's creation story before witnessing a moment, one millionth of a second, after the universe sprang into existence.
As we approach the end of Crash Course Astronomy, it’s time now to acknowledge that our Universe’s days are numbered. Stars will die out after a few trillion years, protons will decay and matter will dissolve after a thousand trillion trillion trillion years, black holes will evaporate after 10^92 years, and then all will be dark. But there is still hope that a new Universe will be born from it.
Thanks to the wonders of physics, astronomers can map a timeline of the universe’s history. Today, Phil’s going to give you an overview of those first few minutes (yes, MINUTES) of the universe’s life. It started with a Big Bang, when the Universe was incredibly dense and hot. It expanded and cooled, going through multiple stages where different kinds of matter could form. It underwent a phenomenally rapid expansion called inflation, which smoothed out much of the lumpiness in the matter. Normal matter formed atoms between 3 and 20 minutes after the bang, and the lumps left over from inflation formed the galaxies and larger structures we see today.
The majority of the universe is made up of a currently mysterious entity that pervades space: dark energy. We don’t know exactly what it is, but we do know that dark energy accelerates the expansion of space. We think this means the Universe will expand forever, even as our view of it shrinks while space expands faster all the time.
Thanks to observations of galaxy redshifts, we can tell that the universe is EXPANDING! Knowing that the universe is expanding and how quickly its expanding also allows us to run the clock backwards 14 billion years to the way the universe began - with a bang.
Today on Crash Course Astronomy, Phil dives into some very dark matters. The stuff we can actually observe in the universe isn’t all there is. Galaxies and other large structures in the universe are created and shifted by a force we detect mostly indirectly, by observing its impact: DARK MATTER.
Gamma-ray bursts are not only incredible to study, but their discovery has an epic story all its own. Today Phil takes you through some Cold War history and then dives into what we know. Bursts come in two rough varieties: Long and short. Long ones are from hypernovae, massive stars exploding, sending out twin beams of matter and energy. Short ones are from merging neutron stars. Both kinds are so energetic they are visible for billions of light years, and both are also the birth announcements of black holes.
Active galaxies pour out lots of energy, due to their central supermassive black holes gobbling down matter. Galaxies tend not to be loners, but instead exist in smaller groups and larger clusters. Our Milky Way is part of the Local Group, and will one day collide with the Andromeda galaxy. Clusters of galaxies also clump together to form superclusters, the largest structures in the Universe. In total, there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the Universe.
The Milky Way is our neighborhood in the universe. It’s a galaxy and there are many others out there. Galaxies contain gas, dust, and billions of stars or more. They come in four main shapes: elliptical, spiral, peculiar, and irregular. Galaxies can collide, and grow in size by eating each other.
Today we’re talking about our galactic neighborhood: The Milky Way. It’s a disk galaxy, a collection of dust, gas, and hundreds of billions of stars, with the Sun located about halfway out from the center. The disk has grand spiral patterns in it, formed by the traffic jams of stars and nebulae, where stars are born. The central region is shaped like a bar, and is mostly old, red stars. There’s also a halo surrounding us of old stars.
Astronomers study a lot of gorgeous things, but nebulae might be the most breathtakingly beautiful of them all. Nebulae are clouds of gas and dust in space. They can glow on their own or reflect light from nearby stars. When they glow it’s usually predominantly red from hydrogen and green from oxygen, and when they reflect and scatter light it’s from massive hot stars, so they look blue. Stars are born in some nebulae, and create new ones as they die. Some nebulae are small and dense, others can be dozens or hundreds of light years across.
Last week we covered multiple star systems, but what if we added thousands or even millions of stars to the mix? A star cluster. There are different kinds of clusters, though. Open clusters contain hundreds or thousands of stars held together by gravity. They’re young, and evaporate over time, their stars let loose to roam space freely. Globular clusters, on the other hand, are larger, have hundreds of thousands of stars, and are more spherical. They’re very old, a significant fraction of the age of the Universe itself, and that means their stars have less heavy elements in them, are redder, and probably don’t have planets (though we’re not really sure).
Double stars are stars that appear to be near each other in the sky, but if they’re gravitationally bound together we call them binary stars. Many stars are actually part of binary or multiple systems. If they are close enough together they can actually touch other, merging into one peanut-shaped star. In some close binaries matter can flow from one star to the other, changing the way it ages. If one star is a white dwarf, this can cause periodic explosions, and possibly even lead to blowing up the entire star.
In the 1950s and early '60s, a small band of high-altitude pioneers exposed themselves to the extreme forces of the space age long before NASA's acclaimed Mercury 7 would make headlines. Though largely forgotten today, balloonists were the first to venture into the frozen near-vacuum on the edge of our world, exploring the very limits of human physiology and human ingenuity in this lethal realm.
2016 • Astronomy
Kevin explores the next frontier of human space travel. Live from the Station, Tim answers questions directly from the children in the lecture theatre audience. With Tim's help out in Earth's orbit, Kevin investigates how the next generation of astronauts will be propelled across the vast chasm of space to Mars and beyond. So, how will life be artificially sustained as we travel the millions of kilometres to the red planet and on into the cosmos? How will our food last for three years or more? And what is waiting what for us when we finally land? With earth-shattering experiments, top space scientists and our astronaut live from space, Dr Fong reveals how we'll survive that voyage to space's next frontier and beyond.
Kevin explores life in orbit on board the Station. As Tim settles in to his new home he sends special reports about what it takes to live and work in space. Four hundred kilometres above the Earth, hurtling at a speed of 17,500mph, astronauts' bones and muscles waste away, the oxygen they breathe is artificially made, and they face constant threats from micrometeorites, radiation and extreme temperatures. If a medical emergency strikes, Tim is a very long way from home. In its 15-year lifetime, the International Space Station has never had a major accident. With a British astronaut in orbit, gravity-defying experiments and guest astronauts in the lecture theatre, Dr Fong shows us how to survive life in orbit.
Kevin explores and probes second by second what it takes to 'lift off' into space. With Tim only days into his six-month mission, he helps Kevin answer what keeps astronauts safe and on track as they are propelled into orbit. How do you control the energy of 300 tonnes of liquid fuel? What happens to your body if you don't wear a spacesuit? And how do you catch up with a space station travelling at 17,500 mph to finally get inside? With explosive live experiments, guest astronauts in the lecture theatre, and planetary scientist Monica Grady direct from the launch pad in Kazakhstan, we learn all this and more as those thrilling minutes of lift off are recreated.
Suppose you placed a camera at a fixed position, took a picture of the sky at the same time every day for an entire year, and overlaid all of the photos on top of each other. What would the sun look like in that combined image? A stationary dot? A circular path? Neither. Oddly enough, it makes a ‘figure 8’ pattern, known as the Sun’s analemma.
On the 15th Dec 2015, Tim Peake will launch into space to be Britain's first astronaut on board the International Space Station. For the past two years, Tim has been filming a video diary for Horizon showing the risks, pressures and rigorous training required to launch into space. Horizon also talks exclusively to his wife and two children as they prepare to wave him goodbye on his voyage to space. From training in the Soyuz capsule, centrifuges, space station mockups, virtual reality and a huge pool to replicate spacewalks, to dealing with the physical dangers of weightlessness, witnessing his first launch and spending time away from his wife Rebecca and his two sons, this is an intimate portrait and remarkable insight into the world of an astronaut.
The only reason life on Earth is possible is because of our stable orbit around the Sun. Elsewhere in the Universe, orbits are chaotic, violent and destructive. On the largest scale, orbits are a creative force and construct the fabric of the Universe.
We’ve covered a lot of incredible stuff, but this week we’re talking about the weirdest objects in space: BLACK HOLES. Stellar mass black holes form when a very massive star dies, and its core collapses. The core has to be more than about 2.8 times the Sun’s mass to form a black hole. Black holes come in different sizes, but for all of them, the escape velocity is greater than the speed of light, so nothing can escape, not matter or light. They don’t wander the Universe gobbling everything down around them; their gravity is only really intense very close to them. Tides near a stellar mass black hole will spaghettify you, and time slows down when you get near a black hole — not that this helps much if you’re falling in.
In the aftermath of a 8 – 20 solar mass star’s demise we find a weird little object known as a neutron star. Neutrons stars are incredibly dense, spin rapidly, and have very strong magnetic fields. Some of them we see as pulsars, flashing in brightness as they spin. Neutrons stars with the strongest magnetic fields are called magnetars, and are capable of colossal bursts of energy that can be detected over vast distances.
Massive stars fuse heavier elements in their cores than lower mass stars. This leads to the creation of heavier elements up to iron. Iron robs critical energy from the core, causing it to collapse. The shock wave, together with a huge swarm of neutrinos, blast through the star’s outer layers, causing it to explode. The resulting supernova creates even more heavy elements, scattering them through space. Also, happily, we’re in no danger from a nearby supernova.
Today Phil follows up last week’s look at the death of low mass stars with what comes next: a white dwarf. White dwarfs are incredibly hot and dense objects roughly the size of Earth. They also can form planetary nebulae: huge, intricately detailed objects created when the wind blown from the dying stars is lit up by the central white dwarf. They only last a few millennia. The Sun probably won’t form one, but higher mass stars do.
Today we are talking about the life -- and death -- of stars. Low mass stars live a long time, fusing all their hydrogen into helium over a trillion years. More massive stars like the Sun live shorter lives. They fuse hydrogen into helium, and eventually helium into carbon (and also some oxygen and neon). When this happens they expand, get brighter, and cool off, becoming red giants. They lose most of their mass, exposing their cores, and then cool off over many billions of years.
While Jupiter is nowhere near massive enough to initiate fusion in its core, there are even more massive objects out there that fall just short of that achievement as well called brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs, have a mass that places them between giant planets and small stars. They were only recently discovered in the 1990’s, but thousands are now known. More massive ones can fuse deuterium, and even lithium, but not hydrogen, distinguishing them from “normal” stars. Sort of.
Today Phil explains that YES, there are other planets out there and astonomers have a lot of methods for detecting them. Nearly 2000 have been found so far. The most successful method is using transits, where a planet physically passes in front of its parent star, producing a measurable dip in the star’s light. Another is to measuring the Doppler shift in a star’s light due to reflexive motion as the planet orbits. Exoplanets appear to orbit nearly every kind of star, and we’ve even found planets that are the same size as Earth. We think there may be many billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy.
Today Phil’s explaining the stars and how they can be categorized using their spectra. Together with their distance, this provides a wealth of information about them including their luminosity, size, and temperature. The HR diagram plots stars’ luminosity versus temperature, and most stars fall along the main sequence, where they live most of their lives.
How do astronomers make sense out of the vastness of space? How do they study things so far away? Today Phil talks about distances, going back to early astronomy. Ancient Greeks were able to find the size of the Earth, and from that the distance to and the sizes of the Moon and Sun. Once the Earth/Sun distance was found, parallax was used to find the distance to nearby stars, and that was bootstrapped using brightness to determine the distances to much farther stars.
In order to understand how we study the universe, we need to talk a little bit about light. Light is a form of energy. Its wavelength tells us its energy and color. Spectroscopy allows us to analyze those colors and determine an object’s temperature, density, spin, motion, and chemical composition.
Today Phil helps keep you from ticking off an astronomer in your life by making sure you know the difference between a meteor, meteorite, and meteoroid. When the Earth plows through the stream emitted by a comet we get a meteor shower. Meteors burn up about 100 km above the Earth, but some survive to hit the ground. Most of these meteorites are rocky, some are metallic, and a few are a mix of the two. Very big meteorites can be a very big problem, but there are plans in the works to prevent us from going the way of the dinosaurs.
Now that we’re done with the planets, asteroid belt, and comets, we’re heading to the outskirts of the solar system. Out past Neptune are vast reservoirs of icy bodies that can become comets if they get poked into the inner solar system. The Kuiper Belt is a donut shape aligned with the plane of the solar system; the scattered disk is more eccentric and is the source of short period comets; and the Oort Cloud which surrounds the solar system out to great distances is the source of long-period comets. These bodies all probably formed closer into the Sun, and got flung out to the solar system’s suburbs by gravitational interactions with the outer planets.
Today on Crash Course Astronomy, Phil explains comets. Comets are chunks of ice and rock that orbit the Sun. When they get near the Sun the ice turns into gas, forming the long tail, and also releases dust that forms a different tail. We’ve visited comets up close and found them to be lumpy, with vents in the surface that release the gas as ice sublimates. Eons ago, comets (and asteroids) may have brought a lot of water to Earth -- as well as the ingredients for life.
Forget the big bang. The real moment of creation was the Cosmic Dawn - the moment of first light. This is the scientific version of the story of Genesis. The big bang gets all the credit for creating our universe. But in fact, the universe it gave was dark and boring. There were no stars, no galaxies, just a vast, black fog of gas - the cosmic dark ages. But, after a hundred million years of nothing, came a dramatic moment of transformation - the Cosmic Dawn. It's the moment the first stars were born, the moment that lit up the Universe, and made the first structure and the first ingredients of life. This was the real moment of creation. Astronomers are now trying to witness the cosmic dawn. For the first time they have the tools to explore the very first stars of the universe and to tell the scientific story of our creation.
Black holes! From Stephen Hawking to Interstellar, black holes are mammoths in the world of science AND sci-fi. But what exactly IS a black hole? Do events happen inside black holes? Are black holes really a hole? Are black holes really black?! Join Gabe on this week’s episode of PBS Space Time as he debunks popular black hole misconceptions, and rethinks what the term, ‘black hole’, even means. Thought you knew what a black hole was? Think again!
Imagine a world where dinosaurs still walk the earth. A world where the Germans won World War II and you are president of the United States. Imagine a world where the laws of physics no longer apply and where infinite copies of you are playing out every storyline of your life. It sounds like a plot stolen straight from Hollywood, but far from it. This is the multiverse. Until very recently the whole idea of the multiverse was dismissed as a fantasy, but now this strangest of ideas is at the cutting edge of science. And for a growing number of scientists, the multiverse is the only way we will ever truly make sense of the world we are in. Horizon asks the question: Do multiple universes exist? And if so, which one are we actually in?
On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft, one of the most advanced ever built, is scheduled to fly by Pluto to take the very first detailed images of the dwarf planet. After nine years and 3 billion miles, we will finally get a close look at this strange, icy world, but only if the craft can survive the final, treacherous leg of its journey, which could take it through a dangerous field of debris.
In 2014, the International Space Station had to move three times to avoid lethal chunks of space debris and there is an increasing problem of satellites mysteriously breaking down. With first-hand accounts from astronauts and experts, Horizon reveals the scale of the problem of space junk. Our planet is surrounded by hundreds of millions of pieces of junk moving at 17,000 miles per hour. Now the US government is investing a billion dollars to track them, and companies around the world are developing ways to clear up their mess - from robot arms to nets and harpoons. Horizon investigates the science behind the hit film Gravity and discovers the reality is far more worrying than the Hollywood fiction.
The expanding universe is a complicated place. During inflation the universe expanded faster than light, but that's something that actually happens all the time, it's happening right now. This doesn't violate Einstein's theory of relativity since nothing is moving through space faster than light, it's just that space itself is expanding such that far away objects are receding rapidly from each other. Common sense would dictate that objects moving away from us faster than light should be invisible, but they aren't. This is because light can travel from regions of space which are superluminal relative to us into regions that are subluminal. So our observable universe is bigger than our Hubble sphere - it's limited by the particle horizon, the distance light could travel to us since the beginning of time as we know it.
Brian Cox explores the ingredients needed for an intelligent civilisation to evolve in the universe - the need for a benign star, for a habitable planet, for life to spontaneously arise on such a planet and the time required for intelligent life to evolve and build a civilisation. Brian weighs the evidence and arrives at his own provocative answer to the puzzle of our apparent solitude.
We begin our story about 13.7 billion years ago, when all the space, matter, and energy of the known Universe was locked up in a volume less than one trillionth of the size of the point of a pen.
We have traveled into space and looked deep into the universe’s depths, but the world beneath our feet remains unexplored and unseen. Now, that’s about to change. For the first time in one epic unbroken shot, we embark on an impossible mission – using spectacular computer generated imagery to smash through three thousand miles of solid rock, and venture from our world into the underworld and on to the core of the Earth itself.
2012 • Astronomy
Follow Dr. Ben Longmier and his team into the rugged Alaskan wilderness on a quest to build a whole new type of rocket engine. Their goal is to test sensitive components by launching them into radiation-filled environments of space aboard helium balloons. Their goal is to revolutionize space travel and exploration by harnessing the energy contained in the dynamic fourth state of matter: plasma.
Where are all the aliens? The universe is too big and too old, why have we not met aliens yet? Do they live in computers? Were they wiped out by an ancient super intelligence? Or are we just to primitive to understand their motives? Whatever the answer is, it is incredibly important for our own future.
The universe is unbelievably big – trillions of stars and even more planets. Soo… there just has to be life out there, right? But where is it? Why don’t we see any aliens? Where are they? And more importantly, what does this tell us about our own fate in this gigantic and scary universe?
Now that we’ve finished our tour of the planets, we’re headed back to the asteroid belt. Asteroids are chunks of rock, metal, or both that were once part of smallish planets but were destroyed after collisions. Most orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, but some get near the Earth. The biggest, Ceres is far smaller than the Moon but still big enough to be round and have undergone differentiation.
Today we’re rounding out our planetary tour with ice giants Uranus and Neptune. Both have small rocky cores, thick mantles of ammonia, water, and methane, and atmospheres that make them look greenish and blue. Uranus has a truly weird rotation and relatively dull weather, while Neptune has clouds and storms whipped by tremendous winds. Both have rings and moons, with Neptune’s Triton probably being a captured iceball that has active geology.
Saturn is the crown jewel of the solar system, beautiful and fascinating. It is a gas giant, and has a broad set of rings made of ice particles. Moons create gaps in the rings via their gravity. Saturn has dozens of moons, including Titan, which is as big as Mercury and has a thick atmosphere and lakes of methane; and Enceladus which has an undersurface ocean and eruptions of water geysers. While we are still uncertain, it is entirely possible that either or both moons may support life.
Before moving on from Jupiter to Saturn, we’re going to linger for a moment on Jupiter’s moons. There are 67 known moons, and 4 huge ones that we want to explore in greater detail. Ganymede is the largest - larger, in fact, than any other moon in the solar system and the planet Mercury! Callisto, orbiting the farthest out, is smaller but quite similar to Ganymede in many ways. Io, meanwhile, is most noteworthy for its tremendous volcanic activity. There’s also water on Ganymede and Europa!
The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History.
Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. The gas giant is NOT a failed star, but a really successful planet! It has a dynamic atmosphere with belts and zones, as well as an enormous red spot that’s actually a persistent hurricane. Jupiter is still warm from its formation, and has an interior that’s mostly metallic hydrogen, and it may not even have a core.
The fourth planet from the sun and the outermost of the terrestrial planets, Mars has long been a popular spot for missions and imagination. Phil walks you through the planet's topography, core, and features. We'll take a look back to Mars's past and makes predictions for its future, including the possibilities for human life.
Venus is a gorgeous naked-eye planet, hanging like a diamond in the twilight -- but it’s beauty is best looked at from afar. Even though Mercury is closer to the sun, Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, due to a runaway greenhouse effect, and has the most volcanic activity in the solar system. Its north and south poles were flipped, causing it to rotate backwards and making for very strange days on this beautiful but inhospitable world.
If we faced a countdown to destruction, could we build a spacecraft to take us to new and habitable worlds? Can we Evacuate Earth? This documentary special examines this terrifying but scientifically plausible scenario by exploring how we could unite to ensure the survival of the human race.
Everyone knows Neil Armstrong was the first to set foot on the moon. But this modest and unassuming man was determined to stay out of the spotlight. Now, for the first time, NOVA presents an intimate portrait of Armstrong through interviews with his family and friends, many of whom have never spoken publicly before.
Description of the two Voyager probes sent for interstellar travel. Tyson ends the series by emphasizing Sagan's message on the human condition in the vastness of the cosmos & to encourage viewers to continue to explore and discover the undiscovered.
The Ship of the Imagination travels across the cosmos to discover the possibility of beings that live forever and explain why other civilizations perish. Then, visit the Cosmic Calendar of the Future and contemplate what lies ahead with a hopeful vision.
Travel to 19th century England and meet Michael Faraday, a child of poverty who grew up to invent the motor and the generator. His ideas about electricity and discovery of magnetic fields changed the world and paved the way for future scientists to make giant strides in the world of high technology and instantaneous communication.
The Ship of the Imagination embarks on a journey through space and time to grasp how the autobiography of the Earth is written in its atoms, its oceans, its continents and all living things. Later, American geologist Marie Tharp creates the first true map of Earth's ocean floor, and discovers microscopic life that exists deep beneath the ocean.
To determine the true age of the Earth, geochemist Clair Patterson developed the uranium-lead dating method to make an unprecedented discovery - calculating Earth's age of 4.5 billion years. But Patterson's groundbreaking discoveries were just beginning. Patterson made it his mission to draw public attention to the detrimental effects of lead in the environment and dedicated his career to fighting against the petroleum and chemical industry, eventually achieving public health's biggest victory of the 20th century.
The Ship of the Imagination ventures on an epic voyage to the bottom of a dewdrop to explore the universe on the smallest scale and observe exotic life forms invisible to the naked eye. Then, host Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the neural network in our brains which determine our sense of smell and memory, and later, he travels deep beneath the surface of the Earth to discover the most mysterious particle we know.
The Ship of the Imagination travels back in time to reveal 11th century Europe and North Africa during the golden age of Islam, when brilliant physicist Ibn al-Haytham discovered the scientific method and first understood how we see, and how light travels. Later, William Herschel discovers the infrared and the signature hidden in the light of every star, eventually unlocking one of the keys to the cosmos.
Neil deGrasse Tyson sets off on the Ship of the Imagination to chase a single comet through its million-year plunge toward Sol. Later, Tyson visits the birth-place of Sir Isaac Newton and retraces the unlikely friendship between Newton and brilliant polymath Edmond Halley. It was Halley's patience and generosity which allowed Newton to conquer his fear of isolation and find the courage to publish his masterwork, "Principia Mathematica" which launched a scientific revolution.
Artificial selection is one example, eyes another, of the well-documented and inescapable process of evolution--change in a population of species over time--by natural selection. These are some of the things that molecules do.
More than three decades after the debut of Carl Sagan's ground-breaking and iconic series, "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage," it's time once again to set sail for the stars. Host and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson sets off on the Ship of the Imagination to discover Earth's Cosmic Address and its coordinates in space and time. Viewers meet Renaissance Italy's Giordano Bruno, who had an epiphany about the infinite expanse of the universe. Then, Tyson walks across the Cosmic Calendar, on which all of time has been compressed into a year-at-a-glance calendar, from the Big Bang to the moment humans first make their appearance on the planet.
In the last month of the space shuttle programme, Kevin Fong is granted extraordinary access to the astronauts and ground crew as they prepare for their final mission. He is in mission control as the astronauts go through their final launch simulation, and he flies with the last shuttle commander as he undertakes his last practice landing flight. Kevin also gains privileged access to the shuttle itself, visiting the launchpad in the company of the astronaut who will guide the final flight from mission control.
For many years our place in the universe was the subject of theologians and philosophers, not scientists, but in 1960 one man changed all that. Dr Frank Drake was one of the leading lights in the new science of radio astronomy when he did something that was not only revolutionary, but could have cost him his career. Working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Greenback in Virginia, he pointed one of their new 25-metre radio telescopes at a star called Tau Ceti twelve light years from earth, hoping for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.
New planets are now being discovered outside our solar system on a regular basis, and these strange new worlds are forcing scientists to rewrite the history of our own solar system. Far from a simple story of stable orbits, the creation of our solar system is a tale of hellfire, chaos and planetary pinball. It's a miracle our Earth is here at all.
How does light escape from the sun? We take a journey from the centre of the sun, following the path of light. We witness its fiery birth from in the core, its 430,000 mile battle against gravity and magnetism, and its escape from the solar surface.
This episode concentrates on how the universe was made in the Big Bang and how scientists predict it could end similarly as it continues to expand. Several theories are covered including the "Big Crunch" where the universe shrinks back to its original size, and the "Big Chill" with the universe slowly freezing to death.
What if we could find one single equation that explains every force in the universe? Dr. Michio Kaku explores how physicists may shrink the science of the Big Bang into an equation as small as Einstein's "e=mc^2." Thanks to advances in string theory, physics may allow us to escape the heat death of the universe, explore the multiverse, and unlock the secrets of existence. While firing up our imaginations about the future, Kaku also presents a succinct history of physics and makes a compelling case for why physics is the key to pretty much everything.
In this talk-show with the popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill explores a variety of topics, including the nature of an expanding, accelerating universe (and how it might end), the difference between “dark energy” and “dark matter,” the concept of God in cosmology and why science matters.
It’s a golden age for planet hunters: NASA's Kepler mission has identified more than 3,500 potential planets orbiting stars beyond our Sun. Some of them, like a planet called Kepler-22b, might even be able to harbor life. How did we come upon this distant planet? Combining startling animation with input from expert astrophysicists and astrobiologists, “Alien Planets Revealed” takes viewers on a journey along with the Kepler telescope. How does the telescope look for planets? How many of these planets are like our Earth? Will any of these planets be suitable for life as we know it? Bringing the creative power of veteran animators together with the latest discoveries in planet-hunting, “Alien Planets Revealed” shows the successes of the Kepler mission, taking us to planets beyond our solar system and providing a glimpse of creatures we might one day encounter.
NOVA examines how a simple instrument, the telescope, has fundamentally changed our understanding of our place in the universe. What began as a curiosity—two spectacle lenses held a foot apart—ultimately revolutionized human thought across science, philosophy, and religion. "Hunting the Edge of Space" takes viewers on a global adventure of discovery, dramatizing the innovations in technology and the achievements in science that have marked the rich history of the telescope.
Around the world, a new generation of astronomers are hunting for the most mysterious objects in the universe. Young stars, black holes, even other forms of life. They have created a dazzling new set of super-telescopes that promise to rewrite the story of the heavens. This film follows the men and women who are pushing the limits of science and engineering in some of the most extreme environments on earth. But most strikingly of all, no-one really knows what they will find out there.
In summer 2013, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way was getting ready to feast. A gas cloud three times the size of our planet strayed within the gravitational reach of our nearest supermassive black hole. Across the globe, telescopes were being trained on the heart of our galaxy, some 27,000 light years from Earth, in the expectation of observing this unique cosmic spectacle. For cosmic detectives across the Earth, it was a unique opportunity. For the first time in the history of science, they hoped to observe in action the awesome spectacle of a feeding supermassive black hole.
On a bright, cold morning on 15th February 2013, a meteorite ripped across the skies above the Ural mountains in Russia, distintegrating into three pieces and exploding with the force of 20 Hiroshimas. It was a stark reminder that the Earth's journey through space is fraught with danger. A day later, another much larger 143,000 tonne asteroid passed within just 17,000 miles of the Earth. Presented by Professor Iain Stewart, this film explores what meteorites and asteroids are, where they come from, the danger they pose and the role they have played in Earth's history.
Horizon goes behind the scenes at NASA as they countdown to the landing of a 2.5 billion-dollar rover on the surface of Mars. In six days time, the nuclear-powered vehicle - the size of a car - will be winched down onto the surface of the Red Planet from a rocket-powered crane. That's if things go according to plan: Mars has become known as the Bermuda Triangle of space because so many missions there have ended in failure. The Curiosity mission is the most audacious - and expensive - attempt to answer the question: is there life on Mars?
It's a voyage of exploration like no other - to Titan, Saturn's largest moon and thought to resemble our own early Earth. For a small team of British scientists this would be the culmination of a lifetime's endeavour - the flight alone, some 2 billion miles, would take a full seven years. This is the story of the space probe they built, the sacrifices they made and their hopes for the landing. Would their ambitions survive the descent into the unknown on Titan's surface?
Hard as it is to swallow, cutting-edge theories are suggesting that our universe may not be the only universe. Instead, it may be just one of an infinite number of universes that make up the "multiverse." In this show, Brian Greene takes us on a tour of this brave new theory at the frontier of physics, showing what some of these alternate realities might be like.
There is a new kind of weather to worry about, and it comes from our nearest star. Scientists are expecting a fit of violent activity on the sun which will propel billions of tonnes of superheated gas and pulses of energy towards our planet. They have the power to close down our modern technological civilisation - e.g. in 1989, a solar storm cut off the power to the Canadian city of Quebec. Horizon meets the space weathermen who are trying to predict what is coming our way, and organistions like the National Grid, who are preparing for the impending solar storms.
Explores science at the very limits of human perception, where we now understand the deepest mysteries of the universe lie. Jim Al-Khalili sets out to answer one very simple question - what is nothing? His journey ends with perhaps the most profound insight about reality that humanity has ever made. Everything came from nothing. The quantum world of the super-small shaped the vast universe we inhabit today, and Jim Al-Khalili can prove it.
The first part, Everything, sees Professor Al-Khalili set out to discover what the universe might actually look like. The journey takes him from the distant past to the boundaries of the known universe. Along the way he charts the remarkable stories of the men and women who discovered the truth about the cosmos and investigates how our understanding of space has been shaped by both mathematics and astronomy.
All life on Earth needs water so the search for aliens in the solar system has followed the search for water. We examine the patterns in the ice on Jupiter's moon Europa, which reveal an ocean far below with more potentially life-giving water than all the oceans on Earth. But of all the wonders of the solar system forged by the laws of nature, Brian reveals the greatest wonder of them all.
The worlds that surround our planet are all made of rock, but there the similarity ends. Some have a beating geological heart, others are frozen in time. Professor Brian Cox travels to the tallest mountain on Earth, the volcano Mauna Kea on Hawaii, to show how something as basic as a planet's size can make the difference between life and death.
Professor Brian Cox takes a flight to the top of earth's atmosphere, where he sees the darkness of space above and the thin blue line of our atmosphere below. Against the stunning backdrop of the glaciers of Alaska, Brian reveals his fourth wonder: Saturn's moon Titan, shrouded by a murky, thick atmosphere.
Discover how beauty and order in Earth's cosmic backyard was formed from nothing more than a chaotic cloud of gas. Chasing tornados in Oklahoma, Professor Brian Cox explains how the same physics that creates these spinning storms shaped the young solar system. Out of this celestial maelstrom emerged the jewel in the crown, Brian's second wonder - the magnificent rings of Saturn.
Professor Brian Cox explores the powerhouse of them all, the sun. In India he witnesses a total solar eclipse and in Norway, he watches the battle between the sun's wind and Earth, as the night sky glows with the northern lights. Beyond earth, the solar wind continues, creating dazzling aurora on other planets.
Asteroids strike, planets collide, black holes blast out death rays, volcanoes erupt and ice engulfs the planet. These are the universe’s weapons of extinction. They’ve happened before - wiping out entire species, and they will happen again. Are we next?
Quantum theory, the best explanation of how atoms and anything smaller behave, is so weird even scientists who have mastered it find it baffling. But bit by bit scientists are finding maybe it's not so weird as comparable behavior is discovered in our every day world. It's just that no one noticed before.
This episode documents how gravity has an effect across the universe, and how the relatively weak force creates an orbit. We also see how a neutron star's gravity works. Finally, there is a look back at how research on gravity has enabled us to better understand the cosmos.
It was 30 years ago that the first space shuttle, Columbia, was launched. It was such a triumph of technology, engineering and organization that it's easy to forget the programme was primarily the product of an economy drive. The disposable Apollo missions had cost billions. A reusable craft was deemed more expedient.
It is one of the most baffling questions that scientists can ask: how big is the Universe that we live in? Horizon follows the cosmologists who are creating the most ambitious map in history - a map of everything in existence. And it is stranger than anyone had imagined - a Universe without end that stretches far beyond what the eye can ever see. And, if the latest research proves true, our Universe may just be the start of something even bigger. Much bigger.
On the 40th anniversary of the famous ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect.
The shape, contents and future of the universe are all intricately related. We know that it's mostly flat; we know that it's made up of baryonic matter (like stars and planets), but mostly dark matter and dark energy; and we know that it's expanding constantly, so that all stars will eventually burn out into a cold nothingness. Renée Hlozek expands on the beauty of this dark ending.
This is the epic story of the stars, and how discovering their tale has transformed our own understanding of the universe. Once we thought the sun and stars were gods and giants. Now we know, in a way, our instincts were right. The stars do all have their own characters, histories and role in the cosmos. Not least, they played a vital part in creating us. There are old, bloated red giants, capable of gobbling up planets in their orbit; explosive deaths - supernovae - that forge the building blocks of life; and black holes, the most mysterious stellar tombstones. And, of course, stars in their prime, like our own sun. Leading astronomers reveal how the grandest drama on tonight is the one playing above our heads.
2012 • Astronomy
Black holes are one of the most destructive forces in the universe, capable of tearing a planet apart and swallowing an entire star. Yet scientists now believe they could hold the key to answering the ultimate question: what was there before the big bang?