Next Episode of The Sky at Night is
Our team of astronomers tell us what's on view in the night sky. From comets to quasars, there is always something fascinating to discuss in the Universe.
When the first episode of The Sky at Night was transmitted in April 1957, it was still thought that Mars could be home to advanced life, the Space Age was yet to begin, and the Big Bang was just a controversial theory. So to celebrate its 60th anniversary, this special programme looks at how our knowledge of the universe has been transformed in the last six decades - from the exploration of the solar system to the detection of black holes and planets orbiting distant stars. Featuring contributions from Jim Al-Khalili, Dallas Campbell and Monica Grady and including special birthday messages from a host of stars, this is a celebration of an extraordinary age of discovery, and The Sky at Night's role in covering it.
This edition comes from the heart of one of the most influential - and surprising - organisations in the history of astronomy. Maggie and Chris have been granted rare access to the Vatican and its little-known observatory, the Specola Vaticana, perched on a hilltop 30km outside Rome.
There they explore its rich history and contemporary cutting-edge science, going inside the Vatican walls to visit the Tower of the Winds, a secret antique sundial that revolutionised the length of the year; the remains of a nest of telescopes atop an old medieval church where the science of spectroscopy was born; and the modern labs, manned by priest scientists who study a range of contemporary astronomical problems, from meteorites to binary stars to the birth of the universe itself.
Scientists have spent hundreds of years observing the planets with telescopes and over fifty exploring the solar system through space travel, so you might have thought they knew our cosmic neighbourhood pretty well.
But actually, they've hardly scratched the surface. The reality is that most of the solar system is still almost a complete mystery. Beyond the orbit of Neptune lies a vast number of strange, dark, icy worlds - the trans-Neptunian objects. And it's only over the last few years that we've even started to see and understand them, and have begun to realise they play a crucial role in the evolution of our solar system.
Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Chris Lintott discover how we've found hundreds of thousands of these strange new objects, some with multiple moons, others with strange orbits, and some spinning way faster than any planet in the solar system.
Marcus du Sautoy explores how studying the mathematics governing the behaviours of these objects has changed our understanding of how the solar system evolved, and how it might eventually end.
In August, the most spectacular meteor shower of 2017 coincides with transmission: The Perseids! If it's clear, it'll be a great chance to see scores of bright shooting stars streaking across the night sky. As those shooting stars vaporise in the atmosphere, a small part of some of them will fall to earth as dust.
This dust will contribute to a total of about 40,000 tonnes of space dust and debris that falls onto our planet every year. In this episode, Chris Lintott and Maggie Aderin-Pocock investigate this mysterious cosmic debris that comes from outer space.
Patrick Moore(Patrick Moore)
Maggie Aderin Pocock(Maggie Aderin Pocock)
Lucie Green(Lucie Green)
Chris Lintott(Chris Lintott)
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