Understanding the Universe

Category: Astronomy

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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Journey Through Space

Brilliantly narrated by film and television legend Sir Patrick Stewart, Journey To Space gives a sweeping overview of humanity’s accomplishments in space, as well as our ongoing activities and future plans. Journey To Space puts into historical context the magnificent contributions made by the Space Shuttle program and its intrepid space pioneers. It uses the most spectacular space footage – including unique views of Earth and operations in space – such as deploying and repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. It then goes on to show how the shuttle launched and assembled the International Space Station (ISS). Together, these programs have taught us how to live, build and conduct scientific experiments in space. The ISS will continue operating in space until 2024, and the film shows how it is building a foundation for the next giant leaps into space, concluding with a fascinating, realistic scenario of how astronauts will actually get to Mars, live there for long durations, and then return home after a two-and-a-half-year mission.

2015 • Astronomy


Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. It has no atmosphere and is, as such, covered in craters. It's also incredibly hot but, surprisingly, has water ice hiding beneath its surface.

13Crash Course AstronomyAstronomy

The Search for Life: The Drake Equation

For many years our place in the universe was the subject of theologians and philosophers, not scientists, but in 1960 one man changed all that. Dr Frank Drake was one of the leading lights in the new science of radio astronomy when he did something that was not only revolutionary, but could have cost him his career. Working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Greenback in Virginia, he pointed one of their new 25-metre radio telescopes at a star called Tau Ceti twelve light years from earth, hoping for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.


Our Extraordinary Sun

Telescopes on six solar observation satellites are currently monitoring the sun. The satellites include Japan's Hinode and the SDO developed by the United States. Solar activity (flares, sunspots) is at its lowest since modern observation began - what implications does this have for our Earth?

11Cosmic Front • 2014 • Astronomy

The Oort Cloud

Now that we’re done with the planets, asteroid belt, and comets, we’re heading to the outskirts of the solar system. Out past Neptune are vast reservoirs of icy bodies that can become comets if they get poked into the inner solar system. The Kuiper Belt is a donut shape aligned with the plane of the solar system; the scattered disk is more eccentric and is the source of short period comets; and the Oort Cloud which surrounds the solar system out to great distances is the source of long-period comets. These bodies all probably formed closer into the Sun, and got flung out to the solar system’s suburbs by gravitational interactions with the outer planets.

22Crash Course Astronomy • 2015 • Astronomy


An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer.

#5Crash Course AstronomyAstronomy