Brian Cox continues his exploration of the solar system with a visit to a planet that dwarfs all the others: Jupiter. Its size gives it a great power that it has used to manipulate the other planets.
While Jupiter is nowhere near massive enough to initiate fusion in its core, there are even more massive objects out there that fall just short of that achievement as well called brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs, have a mass that places them between giant planets and small stars. They were only recently discovered in the 1990’s, but thousands are now known. More massive ones can fuse deuterium, and even lithium, but not hydrogen, distinguishing them from “normal” stars. Sort of.
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 hunt for aliens is on! After a distinguished career in cosmology Professor Martin Rees, the astronomer royal, has taken up the search for extra-terrestrials. Looking for aliens is no longer science fiction - it is a question that's engaging some of the greatest minds in science. As our knowledge of the universe has increased, we're getting closer to answers. Many scientists now think we live in galaxy with a billion Earth-like planets, many of which may be teeming with life. But what kind of life? Has anything evolved into beings we could communicate with? This film gets inside the minds of the scientists considering one of the most exciting and profound questions we can ask - are we alone in the universe? Professor Rees thinks we may have our idea of what an alien is like all wrong. If he's right, it's not organic extra-terrestrials we should look for, it's machines.
2016 • Astronomy