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.
As we continue to discover the diversity of life on Earth, we are forced to stop and marvel at how tenacious and inventive life is. So, as we forge onward in our robotic explorations of other worlds, we shouldn't be too surprised to find other places where conditions seem to be right for life.
This is the epic story of the stars, and how discovering their tale has transformed our own understanding of the universe. Once we thought the sun and stars were gods and giants. Now we know, in a way, our instincts were right. The stars do all have their own characters, histories and role in the cosmos. Not least, they played a vital part in creating us. There are old, bloated red giants, capable of gobbling up planets in their orbit; explosive deaths - supernovae - that forge the building blocks of life; and black holes, the most mysterious stellar tombstones. And, of course, stars in their prime, like our own sun. Leading astronomers reveal how the grandest drama on tonight is the one playing above our heads.
2012 • Astronomy
The episode, devoted to the planet Mars, begins with scientific and fictional speculation about the Red Planet during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, Edgar Rice Burroughs' science fiction books, and Percival Lowell's false vision of canals on Mars). It then moves to Robert Goddard's early experiments in rocket-building, inspired by reading science fiction, and the work by Mars probes, including the Viking, searching for life on Mars. The episode ends with the possibility of the terraforming and colonization of Mars and a Cosmos Update on the relevance of Mars' environment to Earth's and the possibility of a manned mission to Mars.
To coincide with the switch-on of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator complex, Professor Jim Al Khalili from the University of Surrey delves into over 50 years of the BBC science archive to tell the story behind the emergence of one of the greatest theories of modern science, the Big Bang. The remarkable idea that our universe simply began from nothing has not always been accepted with the conviction it is today and, from fiercely disputed leftfield beginnings, took the best part of the 20th century to emerge as the triumphant explanation of how the universe began. Using curious horn-shaped antennas, U-2 spy planes, satellites and particle accelerators, scientists have slowly pieced together the cosmological jigsaw, and this documentary charts the overwhelming evidence for a universe created by a Big Bang. Professor Al-Khalili comments: "This one-off documentary was made by the BBC Horizon team and was great fun to be involved with. The archive footage is fantastic too."