Over billions of years, planet Earth has become home to an amazing interdependent ecosystem, containing a dizzying variety of animals and plants. But how did life here begin? And does it exist anywhere outside of our solar system? We uncover the secrets of our world by tracking the evolution of the cosmos itself, from the Big Bang onwards. Follow scientists responsible for some of the major breakthroughs in understanding the origins of life and witness how their discoveries are fundamentally changing the way we perceive the universe.
Saturn is the crown jewel of the solar system, beautiful and fascinating. It is a gas giant, and has a broad set of rings made of ice particles. Moons create gaps in the rings via their gravity. Saturn has dozens of moons, including Titan, which is as big as Mercury and has a thick atmosphere and lakes of methane; and Enceladus which has an undersurface ocean and eruptions of water geysers. While we are still uncertain, it is entirely possible that either or both moons may support life.
In summer 2013, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way was getting ready to feast. A gas cloud three times the size of our planet strayed within the gravitational reach of our nearest supermassive black hole. Across the globe, telescopes were being trained on the heart of our galaxy, some 27,000 light years from Earth, in the expectation of observing this unique cosmic spectacle. For cosmic detectives across the Earth, it was a unique opportunity. For the first time in the history of science, they hoped to observe in action the awesome spectacle of a feeding supermassive black hole.
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.
The Sun created our Solar System and in a fit of cosmic cannibalism will engulf and destroy it. However, our Solar System will see many changes before the light of our star goes out. So, what will be happening with the planets over the next four billion years, before the Sun swallows us and them?
This year we said goodbye to one of our most intrepid planetary explorers, the Opportunity rover. Take a look back at its storied 15-year mission on Mars, and how it revolutionized our understanding of not just the red planet, but our solar system at large.