Planets • 2010 • episode "S1E7" How the Universe Works

Category: Astronomy

From giant burning gas spheres to icy orphaned worlds wandering in interstellar space, explore the strange planets that inhabit the vast spread of the universe.

How the Universe Works • 0 • 42 episodes •

Volcanoes - The Furnaces Of Life

Scientists are discovering volcanoes on worlds we once thought dead. From our nearest planetary neighbour to tiny moons billions of miles away, today we are discovering volcanoes on alien worlds. Are these worlds where, tomorrow, we might find life? .

2012 • Creativity

Big Bang

The big bang still remains the greatest mystery of all time.

2010 • Astronomy

Did a Black Hole Built the Milky Way?

To discover what created the Milky Way, scientists have to look back 13.7 billion years to the moments just after the Big Bang.

2014 • Astronomy

Weapons of Mass Extinction

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?

2014 • Astronomy

Journey From The Center of the Sun

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.

2014 • Astronomy

Forces of Mass Construction

Scientists attempt to understand how this strange force of magnetism works.

2015 • Astronomy

The First Oceans

For years, scientists suspected that the oceans came from molecules delivered to Earth from distant stars by asteroids, but a new discovery suggests that their true origins may be more exotic.

2015 • Astronomy

Dawn of Life

Discovering how life on Earth came to be; the possibility that life on Earth come from another planet.

2015 • Astronomy

Secret History of the Moon

The incredible secrets of the moon are revealed; the moon might be responsible for life on Earth.

2015 • Astronomy

Edge of the Solar System

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.

2015 • Astronomy


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.

2010 • Astronomy

Black Holes

For many years Black Holes were believed to be myths, but modern astronomy is proving the reality of the most powerful destroyers in the Universe.

2010 • Astronomy


Witness the evolution of galaxies; from clouds of cold gas floating in the voids of space 13 billion years ago, to the magnificent spirals that fill our night.

2010 • Astronomy

Solar Systems

Explore the violent formation of our solar system, and look forward to its eventual death. And, what do other planetary systems around far-flung stars look like?

2010 • Astronomy


Are moons the most likely place to find life beyond the Earth? Explore the 300 that lie within our solar system which might give an idea of the Earth's turbulent past.

2010 • Astronomy


From giant burning gas spheres to icy orphaned worlds wandering in interstellar space, explore the strange planets that inhabit the vast spread of the universe.

2010 • Astronomy


Life is created in unimaginably large explosions called supernovas, scattering the elements formed in the heart of stars. What can they teach us about our origins?

2010 • Astronomy

Megastorms - The Winds of Creation

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.

2012 • Astronomy

Planets from Hell

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?

2012 • Astronomy

Megaflares - Cosmic Firestorms

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?

2012 • Astronomy

Extreme Orbits - Clockwork and Creation

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.

2012 • Astronomy

Comets - Frozen Wanderers

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.

2012 • Astronomy

Asteroids - Worlds that Never Were

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?

2012 • Astronomy

Birth of the Earth

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?"

2012 • Astronomy

The End of the Universe

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.

2014 • Astronomy


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.

2014 • Astronomy

First Second of the Big Bang

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.

2014 • Astronomy


Saturn's secrets are out. The ferocious weather, the evolving ring system and the discovery of active geology on Saturn's moons has rewritten the textbooks. Scientists are looking for life on Saturn's moons and they may have found it on Titan.

2014 • Astronomy

Our Voyage to the Stars

One day, a cosmic disaster will make life on Earth impossible. To survive, we must find a new home amongst the stars. Scientists are already developing new propulsion systems to take us to these distant worlds.

2014 • Astronomy

The Search for a Second Earth

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.

2014 • Astronomy

How the Universe Built Your Car

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.

2015 • Astronomy

Earth Venus's Evil Twin

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.

2015 • Astronomy

Monster Black Hole

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.

2015 • Astronomy

Most Amazing Discoveries

From the furthest reaches of space to our own cosmic backyard, we count down the discoveries that changed everything we know about our universe.

2016 • Astronomy

Black Holes: The Secret Origin

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.

2016 • Astronomy

Mystery of Planet 9

Examining a ninth planet that may be on the outer edge of the solar system. Scientists speculate that it could be 10 times the size of Earth and have moons capable of hosting life.

2016 • Astronomy

Secret History of Pluto

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.

2016 • Astronomy

Stars That Kill

Exploring the real-life Death Stars in the cosmos that could snuff out Earth without much effort; the science of the destructive power behind six of the deadliest star; vampire stars; supernovas; rogue stars.

2017 • Astronomy

The Universe's Deadliest

The universe is a dangerous place, and we explore the deadliest spots in the cosmos. Between earth and the edge of the universe, there are a million ways to die, and our crash test dummy is on a mission to reveal the worst.

2017 • Astronomy

Life and Death on the Red Planet

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.

2017 • Astronomy

The Dark Matter Enigma

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.

2017 • Astronomy

Strangest Alien Worlds

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?

2017 • Astronomy

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Dead or Alive

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.

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Star Gates

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Mars: A Travellers Guide

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2017 • HorizonAstronomy

The Sun

The Sun is our master and creator. It gives us our perception of time, controls our reality, and powers our lives. Big History sheds new light on our nearest star, revealing that ancient sun worship intersects with science.

2013 • Big HistoryAstronomy

Invisible Universe Revealed

Follow the historic rescue of Hubble—the space telescope that unveiled the cosmos.



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.

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