Wonders of the Solar System
In this spellbinding series Professor Brian Cox visits the most extreme locations on Earth to explain how the laws of physics carved natural wonders across the solar system.
Brian’s love of the Solar System started young. When he was just 1 year old, he’s told, he was captivated by live TV images of the first lunar landing. That love developed into a passion for science and a career in particle physics.
Now Brian is a Professor and Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, as well as researcher on one of the most ambitious experiments on Earth, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
1. Empire of the Sun. In the first episode Brian explores the powerhouse of them all, the sun. In India he witnesses a total solar eclipse - when the link to the light and heat that sustains us is cut off for a few precious minutes. But heat and light are not the only power of the sun over the solar system. In Norway, Brian watches the battle between the sun's wind and earth, as the night sky glows with the northern lights.
2. Order out of Chaos. Brian reveals how beauty and order in earth's cosmic backyard was formed from nothing more than a chaotic cloud of gas. Chasing tornados in Oklahoma, he explains how the same physics that creates these spinning storms shaped the young solar system. Out of this celestial maelstrom emerged the jewel in the crown, Brian's second wonder - the magnificent rings of Saturn. On an ice-choked lagoon in Iceland, he sees the nearest thing on Earth to Saturn's rings.
3. The Thin Blue Line. Brian reveals how something as flimsy as an envelope of gas - an atmosphere - can create some of the most wondrous sights in the solar system. He takes a ride in an English Electric Lightning and flies 18 km up to the top of earth's atmosphere, where he sees the darkness of space above and the thin blue line of our atmosphere below. In the Namib desert in south-west Africa, he tells the story of Mercury.
4. Dead or Alive. The worlds that surround our planet are all made of rock, but there the similarity ends. Some have a beating geological heart, others are frozen in time. Brian travels to the tallest mountain on Earth, the volcano Mauna Kea on Hawaii, to show how something as basic as a planet's size can make the difference between life and death. Even on the summit of this volcano, Brian would stand in the shade of the tallest mountain in the solar system, an extinct volcano on Mars called Olympus Mons, which rises up 27 km.
5. Aliens. Brian descends to the bottom of the Pacific in a submarine to witness the extraordinary life forms that survive in the cold, black waters. All life on Earth needs water so the search for aliens in the solar system has followed the search for water. Soaring above the dramatic Scablands of the United States, Brian discovers how the same landscape has been found on Mars. And it was all carved out in a geological heartbeat by a monumental flood.