Wonders of the Solar System
|Wonders of the Solar System|
|Presented by||Professor Brian Cox|
|Music by||Sheridan Tongue|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||5|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC Two
|Picture format||SD: 576i 16:9
|Audio format||SD: Stereo
HD: DTS-HD 5.1
|First shown in||BBC Two
|Original release||7 March 2010– 4 April 2010|
|Followed by||Wonders of the Universe (2011)|
Wonders of the Solar System is a 2010 television series co-produced by the BBC and Science Channel, and hosted by physicist Brian Cox. Wonders of the Solar System was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 7 March 2010. The series comprises five episodes, each of which focuses on an aspect of the Solar System and features a 'wonder' relevant to the theme. The series was described as one of the most successful to appear on BBC Two in recent years.
|“||We live on a world of wonders. A place of astonishing beauty and complexity. We have vast oceans and incredible weather. Giant mountains and breath-taking landscapes.
If you think that this is all there is, that our planet exists in magnificent isolation, then you're wrong. We're part of a much wider ecosystem, that extends way beyond the top of our atmosphere.
As a physicist I'm fascinated by how the laws of nature that shaped all this, also shaped the worlds beyond our home planet.
I think we're living through the greatest age of discovery our civilisation has known. We've voyaged to the farthest reaches of the Solar System. We've photographed strange new worlds, stood in unfamiliar landscapes, tasted alien air.
—- Professor Brian Cox
1. "Empire of the Sun"
The first episode illustrates how the formation and behaviour of the Sun affects each planet in the Solar System. During this episode, Cox visits India to view and explain the workings of a total solar eclipse and the partial eclipses that occur on other planets. He travels to the Iguazu Falls to relate the causality between river levels, and sunspot fluctuations. An explanation of the Earth's exposure to the power of the Sun occurs in Death Valley, California, USA, with an experiment inspired by John Herschel's actinometer. He also travels to Norway to observe and explain the defensive role of the Earth's magnetosphere against the sun's solar wind and its role in forming the Aurora Borealis. He also relates the Voyager missions and their continuing exploration of the massive reach of the sun's gravitational forces on objects in the farthest regions of the solar system. Finally, in the clear skies of the Atacama Desert, at the Paranal Observatory he is able to observe, with the naked eye, the myriad of stars on the Milky Way and relates the meaning of their diverse colours as mapped on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram.
2. "Order Out of Chaos"
Cox starts this episode in Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia to analyse the orbit of the planets around our Sun, with details on how the 23 degree tilt of the Earth creates the seasonal weather patterns. He also visits the Atlas Mountains, and relates how in clear night skies the ancients observed the rotation of the stars and the retrograde and prograde motion of Mars and the other wandering planets. In Oklahoma, USA, he discusses the universal reach of the Coriolis effect and the importance of the conservation of angular momentum. Next, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory he examines how the Cassini–Huygens space-probe's imagery provides an insight on the highly complex structure of the ice rings of Saturn, and its diverse array of moons, and how they can reveal insights into the formation and evolution of the solar system. He also explains how Enceladus, as the most reflective object in the known universe, has been of interest due to its continental divide-like canyons and geysers (as also observed in parts of Iceland). In the Sahara Desert the formative effect of winds on sand-dune morphology is paralleled to that of the gravitational effect of Saturn's 61 known moons on the matter that composite the rings - a phenomenon called orbital resonance.
3. "The Thin Blue Line"
The third episode looks at the atmosphere of the planets and moons of the Solar System, with Earth, Mars, and Venus being the main focus. The episode starts with Cox travelling to South Africa and taking a journey in an English Electric Lightning up to an altitude of 18 kilometres where the "thinness and fragility" of the atmosphere could be observed in the middle of the day. This is then contrasted with the planet-wide consequences of Mercury's depleted, and Venus' broiling greenhouse atmospheres. Later, the dunal morphology of the Namib Desert is compared to what is known of the surface and depleted atmosphere of Mars, and is used to give an explanation of how the Earth maintains its temperature. Cox then explains how the damaging effect of the sun's solar wind is deflected by the Earth's magnetosphere. Next, he discusses the transformative effect of weather on a planet's surface, such as the global dust-storms on Mars or the electrical-storms of Jupiter. The episode continues with an in-depth comparison of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, using data gained from the Huygens probe's January 2005 descent down to the frigid methane surface of the moon. It ends with Cox comparing Earth's hydrological cycle with Titan's methanological one.
4. "Dead or Alive"
The fourth episode begins at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA, and immediate comparisons are drawn to Mars and the Valles Marineris. A trip to Kīlauea on Hawaii shows the geological activity of Earth, and again a comparison to Mars and Olympus Mons is seen. An analysis of Jupiter's gravitational effect is given with how it could potentially send an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The same gravitational force is also shown to give the Jovian moon Io geological life.
The final installment covers life surviving in extreme environments, and how the search for life on other worlds follows the search for water, focusing on Mars, and on Jupiter's moon Europa. Cox begins by travelling to the deep ocean to draw comparisons between space travel. The Atacama Desert in South America is also viewed, which is seen to explain the lack of life found there. A trip to the Scablands in North-West America is also made with an explanation of the Missoula Floods that once occurred there, and how it shaped the landscape geologically. More examinations of life come with a trip to Mexico and how life survives in caves, comparing the noxious "snottites" of a Mexican cave with possible life on Mars.
- In Austria, this programme was aired by ORF 2 each Thursday at 9:05pm from 8 September 2011 with the re-worked title, Geheimnisse des Lebens (Secrets of Life).
- In the Netherlands, this programme was aired by NTR on Nederland 2 each Sunday at 6:50pm from 17 April 2011.
- In the United States, this programme was aired by Science Channel each Wednesday at 9pm E/P from 4 August 2010.
Brian Cox from his Twitter account stated that there would be a second series, "Wonders of the Universe", with the same crew and BBC science team. It was first broadcast on 6 March 2011 in the UK. The second series has a similar basis to series one, but features the universe. The new series consisted of four episodes as opposed to the previous five.
- Jamieson, Alastair (2010-04-07). "'Rock star' scientist to make new BBC series". Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-08-13.
- 70th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2011.
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- "SBS Documentary Index: Wonders of the Solar System". SBS Television Online. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- "ORF 2: Geheimnisse des Lebens - Im Reich Der Sonne". ORF Austria. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
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- "Zázraky slnečnej sústavy". STV1. Retrieved 2011-04-17.
- "Science Channel Episode Guide: Wonders of the Solar System". Science Channel Online. Retrieved 2011-02-28.