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.
From a greenhouse in Holland to a desert landscape in Iceland, scientists are using the earth to tests ways to keep a Mars settlement alive and well. It’s the ultimate survival challenge, requiring major innovations to find water, grow food and clean the air.
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.
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.
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.