In 1971 a Russian spacecraft attempted to photograph Mars, but the planet did not cooperate. Since then, we've learned more about the atmosphere of the red planet, and what makes it similar to, but very different from, our own.
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.
2004 • Astronomy
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.
2004 • Astronomy
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.
2004 • Astronomy
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.
2004 • Astronomy
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.
Dallas Campbell looks back through almost 50 years of the Horizon archives to chart the scientific breakthroughs that have transformed our understanding of the universe. From Einstein's concept of spacetime to alien planets and extra dimensions, science has revealed a cosmos that is more bizarre and more spectacular than could have ever been imagined. But with every breakthrough, even more intriguing mysteries that lie beyond are found. This great journey of discovery is only just beginning.
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.
'To send a spacecraft there is a little bit insane,' says Scott Bolton when talking about Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. But that is exactly what he has done, because Scott is head of Juno, the Nasa mission designed to peer through Jupiter's swirling clouds and reveal the wonders within. But this is no ordinary world. This documentary, narrated by Toby Jones, journeys with the scientists into the heart of a giant. Professor Kaitlin Kratter shows us how extreme Jupiter is. She has come to a quarry to measure out each planet's mass with rocks, starting with the smallest. Mercury is a single kilogram, and the Earth is 17. But Jupiter is on another scale entirely. It is seven tonnes - that is two and a half times the mass of all the other planets combined. On Kaitlin's scale it is not a pile of rocks, it is the truck delivering them. With extreme size comes extreme radiation. Juno is in the most extreme environment Nasa has visited. By projecting a 70-foot-wide, life-size Juno on a Houston rooftop, Scott shows us how its fragile electronics are encased in 200kg of titanium. As Scott puts it, 'we had to build an armoured tank to go there.' The team's efforts have been worthwhile. Professor Andrew Ingersoll, Juno's space weatherman, reveals they have seen lightning inside Jupiter, perhaps a thousand times more powerful than Earth's lightning. This might be evidence for huge quantities of water inside Jupiter. Prof Ingersoll also tells us that the Great Red Spot, a vast hurricane-like storm that could swallow the Earth whole, goes down as far as they can see - 'it could go down 1,000s of kilometres'. Deeper into the planet and things get stranger still. At the National Ignition facility in northern California, Dr Marius Millot is using powerful lasers normally used for nuclear fusion for an astonishing experiment. He uses '500 times the power that is used for the entire United States at a given moment' to crush hydrogen to the pressures inside Jupiter. Under these extreme conditions, hydrogen becomes a liquid metal. Juno is finding out how much liquid metallic hydrogen is inside Jupiter, and scientists hope to better understand how this flowing metal produces the most powerful aurora in the Solar System. But what is at Jupiter's heart? In Nice, Prof Tristan Guillot explains how Juno uses gravity to map the planet's centre. This can take scientists back to the earliest days of the solar system, because Jupiter is the oldest planet and it should contain clues to its own creation. By chalking out an outline of the Jupiter, Tristan reveals there is a huge rocky core - perhaps ten times the mass of Earth. It is now thought Jupiter started as a small rocky world. But there is a surprise, because Juno's findings suggest this core might be 'fuzzy'. Tristan thinks the planet was bombarded with something akin to shooting stars. As he puts it, 'Jupiter is quite unlike we thought'.