Dark matter and dark energy are locked in an epic battle for control of the cosmos, and the winner will determine the fate of the universe. New discoveries might reveal which force will emerge victorious.
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
If a massive asteroid collides with earth, it could end life on our planet as we know it; new discoveries and cutting-edge tech reveal just how close we are to apocalypse and what it would take for the world's leading space agencies to stop it.
2020 • Astronomy
Dead stars may be the key to understanding the cosmos. New research proves white dwarfs are one of the driving forces of our universe. They eat planets, they flare out in high-energy light Have scientists finally discovered how these small stars could be such massive galactic players?
2021 • Astronomy
'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'.
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.
Sometime in the future humans will leave Earth to colonize Mars, and in doing so will begin to adapt to life on another planet in surprising ways. Evolutionary biologist Dr. Scott Solomon foresees a series of changes to our species from the size of our hearts and heads to the pigments in our skin.
Astronomer Shep Doeleman and his team are on a mission that will challenge the theories of Albert Einstein and could pave the way to a revolution in physics: to capture the first-ever image of a black hole. To do this, they must link eight multimillion-dollar observatories around the world to a spot 26,000 light years away. It's the equivalent of spotting an orange on the moon, but after 10 years of planning and the combined brainpower of over 200 international scientists, the team feels they're ready to make scientific history.
2019 • Astronomy