Dark History of the Solar System • 2018 How the Universe Works

Category: Astronomy

Our solar system hides a dark and violent past, and new discoveries reveal that the earth and planets were formed from the destruction of strange alien worlds that came before us.

How the Universe Works • 0 • 20 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

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


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


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

Are Black Holes Real?

New discoveries are challenging everything we know about black holes -- astronomers are beginning to question if they even exist. The latest science tries to explain how they work & what they look like, despite the fact we've never actually seen one.

2018 • Astronomy

Twin Suns: The Alien Mysteries

Planets that orbit two suns instead of one might be deadly hell worlds, but new discoveries reveal that sci-fi star systems with binary stars might be optimal places for alien life.

2018 • Astronomy

Uranus & Neptune Rise of the Ice Giants

Uranus and Neptune are mysterious, icy worlds at the edge of the solar system; new discoveries reveal that these strange planets may have helped start life on Earth.

2018 • Astronomy

Dark History of the Solar System

Our solar system hides a dark and violent past, and new discoveries reveal that the earth and planets were formed from the destruction of strange alien worlds that came before us.

2018 • Astronomy

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Today Phil explores the world of tides! What is the relationship between tides and gravity? How do planets and their moons become tidally locked? What would happen if you were 300km tall? Important questions.

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White Dwarfs & Planetary Nebulae

Today Phil follows up last week’s look at the death of low mass stars with what comes next: a white dwarf. White dwarfs are incredibly hot and dense objects roughly the size of Earth. They also can form planetary nebulae: huge, intricately detailed objects created when the wind blown from the dying stars is lit up by the central white dwarf. They only last a few millennia. The Sun probably won’t form one, but higher mass stars do.

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The Sun’s surprising movement across the sky

Suppose you placed a camera at a fixed position, took a picture of the sky at the same time every day for an entire year, and overlaid all of the photos on top of each other. What would the sun look like in that combined image? A stationary dot? A circular path? Neither. Oddly enough, it makes a ‘figure 8’ pattern, known as the Sun’s analemma.

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Plasma: Reinventing Space Flight

Follow Dr. Ben Longmier and his team into the rugged Alaskan wilderness on a quest to build a whole new type of rocket engine. Their goal is to test sensitive components by launching them into radiation-filled environments of space aboard helium balloons. Their goal is to revolutionize space travel and exploration by harnessing the energy contained in the dynamic fourth state of matter: plasma.


Are Black Holes Real?

New discoveries are challenging everything we know about black holes -- astronomers are beginning to question if they even exist. The latest science tries to explain how they work & what they look like, despite the fact we've never actually seen one.

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All life on Earth needs water so the search for aliens in the solar system has followed the search for water. We examine the patterns in the ice on Jupiter's moon Europa, which reveal an ocean far below with more potentially life-giving water than all the oceans on Earth. But of all the wonders of the solar system forged by the laws of nature, Brian reveals the greatest wonder of them all.

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