We go out far into the solar system using robot surrogates, whose cameras have become our windows onto a cosmic vista.
Cosmic Vistas (18 x 26 minutes)
For the first time since man started exploring new continents on Earth, the human race is once again on the edge of discovery. This time our sights are set on unlocking the secrets of our solar system. This is our roadmap to the journey ahead. And it’s an intimate look at the Sun: As the solar system’s only star it is the most brilliant and dangerous location we can explore. It holds the key to our origins.
Mercury offers us a look at a solid world and the forces that shape it. With substantially more matter and a thicker atmosphere, Venus tells an even more complex story, but the story of life on these rocky shores ends with our own planet - Earth. The moon is our silent partner, our closest neighbor in space, and the keeper of some of our oldest secrets. It is also our cosmic stepping stone to a future among the planets.
Thanks to a fleet of advanced spacecraft in orbit and on the surface of the red planet, a new portrait of Mars is emerging. The Red Planet teeters on the border between a living and a dead world. As we look more closely at the multitude of puzzles written into the Martian terrain and the water locked within it, we are able to chart a course for future exploration and even consider the prospects for a human presence.
The gas giants of the outer solar system, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune represent a very different kind of planet, with exotic atmospheres, liquid interiors and even rings. Looking beyond the rocky and gaseous worlds, to the outer fringe of our solar system where Pluto resides, we may find the history of the solar system preserved in a deep freeze.
The moons orbiting the giant planets are shaping up to be a fascinating scientific inquiry. By studying the smaller moons orbiting these planets, we can examine the forces that helped shape these mini solar systems. Europa, Titan, Io and more: the dozens of moons accompanying the giant outer planets exemplify the spectacular diversity within our own solar system. They may also offer our best chance for finding alien life in our solar system.
Meteorites that slice across the sky introduce us to another component of the solar system – asteroids and comets. We discover how our existence is tied to these small bodies of mystery and menace. The series concludes with a tantalizing glimpse of the alien worlds that lie far beyond our solar system and a recognition that another new horizons now beckons.
Thanks to a dramatic repair mission the Hubble Space Telescope has another chance to capture more stunning pictures like only it can. See how the final tune up came together and what Hubble has learned since.
Nothing has transformed our understanding of the night sky like the telescope, but even the superstars of 20th century astronomy like the Hubble Space Telescope will be dwarfed in accomplishment by the superscopes of the future. Gigantic telescopes with multiple mirrors working in unison, like the Spitzer Space Telescope, will see further and possibly get our first pictures ever of another planet that can support life as we know it.
Seeing is everything in the world of astronomy, but how do we overcome the limits imposed by our own eyesight? We do it by watching the universe in wavelengths outside the scope of our vision. The cosmos comes alive when viewed from infrared light to gamma radiation.
The Atacama Desert in Chili provides some of the best views on Earth of the night sky. High in the mountains and far removed from the light pollution of big cities incredibly advanced telescopes gather images that rival, and sometimes surpass the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Northern Lights are more than just beautiful. They tell us about the make up of our planet, our sun, and may even be a signpost for the possibility of life on other planets.
Our understanding of the cosmos is limited not only but what we can see, but by the amount of time we have to see it. Fortunately computer simulations are helping us see what it’s like to fly over other worlds, how galaxies interact over millions of years, and even how dark matter structures the universe.
Saturn is the second largest, and grooviest looking planet. It’s also a mini-solar system with 60 moons (most of them recently discovered) and those crazy ring. Thanks to the Cassini mission it’s also one of the most studied and most photographed planets in our neighbourhood.
With the Dawn missions exploration of the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres, asteroids are a hot topic. We’ll see what’s new in big floating space rocks.
They key ingredient to life in the universe is water. Until recently we thought Earth was the only place in the solar system to have any water at all. Now that probes are peering around nearby worlds we are finding that is just not the case. This episode will show you where the water is and tell you what that means.
Gravity sucks but where would we be with out it. Scientists are now probing to detect gravity waves in space. They are also mapping the gravity patterns of the moon for the first time.
For more than 25 years the shuttle was our ticket to space, and our laboratory in orbit. So did it teach us about its playground?
Like a nosy neighbour we just can’t learn enough about Big Red. Despite having boots on the ground (well, treads and wheels) the vast majority of information is being gathered by orbiters who are chronicling everything they can. What’s the latest news? We’ll dish.