Sagan discusses comets and asteroids as planetary impactors, giving recent examples of the Tunguska event and a lunar impact described by Canterbury monks in 1178. It moves to a description of the environment of Venus, from the previous fantastic theories of people such as Immanuel Velikovsky to the information gained by the Venera landers and its implications for Earth's greenhouse effect. The Cosmos Update highlights the connection to global warming.
NASA's brand-new Mars rover is on the hunt for alien life, and with the help of cutting-edge engineering, scientists embark on a search for fossilized remains, which might prove the Red Planet was once home to a vast ocean and extraterrestrial life.
Is there another Earth out there with liquid oceans, rocky continents and life like us? Astronomers seek the answer with spectroscopy, direct imaging and telescopes. They hope to find evidence of atmospheres, magnetospheres and signs of life.
This is the story of the most extraordinary journey in human exploration, the Voyager space mission. In 1977 two unmanned spacecraft were launched by NASA, heading for distant worlds. It would be the first time any man-made object would ever visit the farthest planets of the solar system - Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus. On the way the Voyagers would be bombarded by space dust, fried by radiation and discover many of the remarkable wonders of the solar system. Now, at the end of 2012, 35 years and 11 billion miles later, they are leaving the area of the sun's influence. As they journey out into the galaxy beyond they carry a message from Earth, a golden record bolted to the side of each craft describing our civilisation in case of discovery by another. This is the definitive account of the most intrepid explorers in Earth's history.
2012 • Astronomy
Gamma-ray bursts are not only incredible to study, but their discovery has an epic story all its own. Today Phil takes you through some Cold War history and then dives into what we know. Bursts come in two rough varieties: Long and short. Long ones are from hypernovae, massive stars exploding, sending out twin beams of matter and energy. Short ones are from merging neutron stars. Both kinds are so energetic they are visible for billions of light years, and both are also the birth announcements of black holes.