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Super Telescope: Mission to the Edge of the Universe

   2022    Technology
As NASA releases the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, this film tells the inside story of the telescope's construction and the astronomers taking its first picture of distant stars and galaxies. Will it be the deepest image of our universe ever taken? The successor to Hubble, and 100 times more powerful, the James Webb is the most technically advanced telescope ever built. It will look further back in time than Hubble to an era around 200 million years after the Big Bang, when the first stars and galaxies appeared. Webb's primary mission is to capture the faint light from these objects on the edge of our visible universe so that scientists can learn how they formed, but its instruments are so sensitive it could also be the first telescope to detect signs of life on a distant planet.
The James Webb Telescope is an £8 billion gamble on the skills of its engineering team. It’s the first telescope designed to unfold in space – a complicated two-week operation in which 178 release devices must all work - 107 of them on the telescope's sun shield alone. If just one fails, the expensive telescope could become a giant piece of space junk.
From its conception in the late 1980s, the construction of Webb has posed a huge technical challenge. The team must build a mirror six times larger than Hubble’s and construct a vast sun shield the size of a tennis court, fold them up so they fit into an Ariane 5 rocket, then find a way to unfold them in space. This film tells the inside story of the James Webb Space Telescope in the words of the engineers who built it and the astronomers who will use it.

Gravitational Waves Revealed

   2021    Science
In astronomy, we've been looking at different kinds of light and opening up the universe a little bit more of the time. But then in 2015, the roof came off. Something happened that changed everything, the ability to see waves in space and time itself. Gravitational waves help us roll back the clock to the dawn of time, discover epic cosmic collisions, on make Earth-shaking discoveries. Gravitational waves are the biggest game changer since the invention of the telescope. We have a completely new universe to view now. A new exploration of space is just beginning.
Series: How the Universe Works Series 9

Alien Worlds: The Search for Second Earth

   2021    Science
Humans have long gazed up at the night sky, wondering whether other lifeforms and intelligences could be thriving on worlds far beyond our own. But over the last few decades, ultra-sensitive telescopes and dogged detective work have transformed alien planet-hunting from science fiction into hard fact. We expected to find worlds similar to the planets in our own solar system, but we instead discovered a riot of exotic worlds. Vivid animation based on data from the most successful planet hunter of them all, the Kepler space telescope, brings these worlds into view: puffy planets with the density of polystyrene, unstable worlds orbiting two suns and 1,000-degree, broiling gas giants with skies whipped into titanic winds.
But perhaps the most startling discovery was the number of worlds that may be contenders for a second Earth, at the right distance from their sun to have that ingredient so crucial for life as we know it, liquid water. Amongst them, we witness the most tantalizing discovery of all: a so-called ‘super-Earth’, situated in the Goldilocks zone - the area just the right distance from a sun to potentially support life - and with the faint signal of water in its atmosphere.
Series: Universe

The Milky Way: Island of Light

   2021    Science
Professor Brian Cox continues his epic exploration of the cosmos by looking at the faint band of light that sweeps across the night sky - our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The Sun is just one of almost 400 billion stars that form this vast, majestic disk of light, our own home in the universe. Thanks to a cutting-edge space we’re finally able to reveal the Milky Way’s dramatic history and predict its cataclysmic future.
Our galaxy started out a fraction of the size it is today, and Gaia telescope has revealed how it grew over the eons. Beautifully rendered VFX based on the very latest Gaia data has uncovered the remarkable story of our galaxy’s evolution. As our young galaxy encountered rival galaxies, it experienced a series of violent growth spurts and intense periods of cataclysmic change while battling to survive. Each time our galaxy feeds, a new era of star formation begins, fuelled by incoming torrents of fresh gas and energy. And there is another collision to come. Another, larger galaxy is coming our way. Andromeda is heading straight for us at a quarter of a million miles per hour. The Milky Way’s long-term fate is in the balance.
Series: Universe

Black Holes: Heart of Darkness

   2021    Science
The centre of our galaxy is home to an invisible monster of unimaginable power – a supermassive black hole named Sagittarius A star, with four million times the mass of the Sun. Recent astronomical breakthroughs have confirmed not only that black holes like Sagittarius A star exist, but that these bizarre invisible objects may be the ultimate galactic protagonists.
Stunning CGI takes us back to witness the fiery origins of our galaxy’s black hole 13.6 billion years ago, when the early universe was home to colossal blue stars, and when they ran out of fuel, they collapsed under their own enormous mass, crushing down into an object so small and so dense it punched a hole in the fabric of the universe. Over billions of years, Sagittarius A star feasted on nearby gas, stars, and through cataclysmic mergers with other black holes. A breakthrough discovery by Nasa’s Fermi gamma-ray telescope has shown that our black hole had the power to sculpt the entire galaxy, creating vast bubbles of gas above and below our galaxy and even protecting stars systems as ours.
In a mind-bending conclusion, Brian Cox reveals how our modern understanding of black holes is challenging our concepts of reality to the breaking point. In trying to understand the fate of objects that fall into Sagittarius A star, scientists have come to a stunning conclusion: space and time, concepts so foundational to how we experience the world around us, are not as fundamental as we once thought.
Series: Universe

The Big Bang: Before the Dawn

   2021    Science
How did the universe come to be? Thanks to a series of discoveries, our most powerful space missions have unravelled 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution and revealed the story of our universe from its birth all the way to the arrival of our nascent civilization. Our guide on this odyssey back to the dawn of time is light. Telescopes are time machines - by looking out into the distant universe, they open a window to the past. One telescope more than any other has helped us journey through the history of the universe: NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Remarkably, Hubble has even found one of the first galaxies ever to exist in the universe, which was born some 13.4 billion years ago. It's a discovery that hints at the beginnings of our own Milky Way. Vivid CGI brings this ancient galaxy to life, allowing us to witness for ourselves the first dawn. It was the beginning of a relationship between stars and planets that would, on a faraway world, lead to the origin of life - and ultimately to us.
Hubble’s incredible discoveries have allowed scientists to piece together much of our cosmic story, but it cannot take us back to the most important moment in history: the Big Bang. For decades, the moment the universe began was the subject of pure speculation, but by combining astronomy and cosmology, scientists have finally found a way to put their theories to the test and study the momentous events that took place during the Big Bang. They can do this because the European Space Agency’s Planck space telescope has seen the afterglow of the Big Bang itself – something we call the Cosmic Microwave Background. The unparalleled detail Planck gave us has helped confirm something remarkable: the Big Bang may not be the beginning. There was a time before the dawn – a place beyond anything we can comprehend. Professor Brian Cox transports us back to the fraction of a second before the Big Bang, when the seeds of our universe were planted.
Series: Universe
The Jinx

The Jinx

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Reel Rock

Reel Rock

2014  Culture
The Rehearsal

The Rehearsal

2022  Culture
Triumph of Life

Triumph of Life

2006  Nature
The Crusades

The Crusades

2012  History
Long Way Up

Long Way Up

2020  Culture