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.
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.
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.
Beginning with the origins of the universe in the Big Bang, Sagan describes the formation of different types of galaxies and anomalies such as galactic collisions and quasars. The episodes moves further into ideas about the structure of the Universe, such as different dimensions (in the imaginary Flatland and four-dimensional hypercubes), an infinite vs. a finite universe, and the idea of an oscillating Universe (similar to that in Hindu cosmology). The search into other ideas such as dark matter and the multiverse is shown, using tools such as the Very Large Array in New Mexico. Cosmos Update shows new information about the odd, irregular surfaces of galaxies and the Milky Way perhaps being a barred spiral galaxy.
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.