Understanding the Universe

Category: Astronomy
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Join astronomers and astrophysicists as they probe light years beyond the Milky Way, in Understanding The Universe, part of Discovery's popular television series.

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Knowing without Seeing - The Science of Black Holes

Einstein, Oppenheimer, and other physicists and astronomers wrestled with the concept of Black Holes. With relentlessly powerful gravitational pull, black holes suck in anything that comes near them, but do they? As the study of black holes progresses, science finds more mysteries than solutions.

9Cosmic Front • 2014 • Astronomy

Dark Side of the Sun

What would happen if the sun took out our electrical power grid for an entire year? It may sound like the plot of a sci-fi movie, but this doomsday scenario could actually happen. Despite its calm appearance, the sun is a violent place, constantly releasing huge masses of energy known as coronal mass ejections. These storms have hit the earth before. The last big one struck more than 150 years ago in the Victorian era taking out worldwide telegraph service. The impact of a similar storm would be far more destructive in our modern age of hyper-connected telecommunication and total reliance on electricity and electronics. Fortunately scientists and engineers are building the world's largest solar telescope and launching the first ever spacecraft to fly to the sun to help us predict these potentially devastating events - and prepare for them.

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First Stars

Look up at the night sky, and you see countless shining stars. Our galaxy has 100 billion of them. Astronomers are now hunting for clues that will reveal "the first star" that transformed the ancient universe and led to the creation of everything that followed: galaxies, planets and life itself.

6Cosmic Front • 2014 • 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?

S2E3How the Universe Works • 2012 • Astronomy

Galaxies, Part 2

Active galaxies pour out lots of energy, due to their central supermassive black holes gobbling down matter. Galaxies tend not to be loners, but instead exist in smaller groups and larger clusters. Our Milky Way is part of the Local Group, and will one day collide with the Andromeda galaxy. Clusters of galaxies also clump together to form superclusters, the largest structures in the Universe. In total, there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the Universe.

39Crash Course Astronomy • 2015 • Astronomy

Mission to Mars

Horizon goes behind the scenes at NASA as they countdown to the landing of a 2.5 billion-dollar rover on the surface of Mars. In six days time, the nuclear-powered vehicle - the size of a car - will be winched down onto the surface of the Red Planet from a rocket-powered crane. That's if things go according to plan: Mars has become known as the Bermuda Triangle of space because so many missions there have ended in failure. The Curiosity mission is the most audacious - and expensive - attempt to answer the question: is there life on Mars?

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