Next Episode of NOVA is
NOVA brings you stories from the frontlines of science and engineering, answering the big questions of today and tomorrow, from how our ancestors lived, to whether parallel universes exist, to how technology will transform our lives.
The Red Planet was once a vibrant blue water-world, home to raging rivers, active volcanoes, and even an ocean. But as the young planet's core cooled, its magnetic field and protective atmosphere faded, eventually exposing it to the wrath of the sun. With its volcanoes extinguished and its water lost to space, Mars became the frozen desert planet we know today. But if it once had many of the ingredients necessary to form life, how far along might that process have gotten?
Jupiter is not just the oldest planet orbiting the sun—it's also the largest. So when the young gas giant went on a rampage through the early inner solar system, it shaped the fate of everything in its path. Speeding towards the Sun, Jupiter's massive gravitational force hurled debris into interstellar space, stunting the growth of would-be planets. Earth might have been doomed had Saturn not pulled Jupiter back. But it also shaped life on Earth, delivering comets laden with water - and perhaps even the fateful asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Today, Jupiter resides in the outer solar system, where its gravity bends the paths of asteroids and stokes volcanic activity on its moon Io. But it could one day wreak havoc again.
Over the past 40 years, a handful of space probes has given us glimpses of Saturn. But NASA's Cassini, which explored the gas giant's realm for 13 years looping through its icy rings and flying by its moons, delivered the most breathtaking new insights. The probe captured stunning ring-moon interactions. NOVA takes you inside Cassini's epic journey as it makes astonishing discoveries: Saturn's rings are younger than the dinosaurs and may be remnants of an ice moon. And geysers erupting ice and gas on the moon Enceladus show that it could have all the ingredients for life. But to protect it, the Cassini mission team makes a bittersweet decision.
Over a billion miles from the sun, beyond the rocky inner planets and the gas giants, lie the ice words—Uranus and Neptune. NOVA takes you inside the missions that rewrote the story of the outer solar system: NASA's Voyager 1 & 2 capture Neptune's supersonic winds, rings around a tipped-over Uranus, and dozens of moons. And when New Horizons flew by Pluto in 2015, it reveals jagged ice mountains and an underground ocean before venturing deep into the Kuiper Belt.
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