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BBC The Planets

documentaries movies series in eight episodes (Different Worlds, Terra Firma, Giants, Moon, Star, Atmosphere, Life and Destiny) a 1999 BBC Natural History Unit production about the planets of our solar system.

Series episodes


Different Worlds - when recording of Holst's Planets suite was made, there were thought to be eight planets. Then, a young man arrived at an observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, to start the search for a ninth. At that time, little was known about the planets.

Terra Firma - he story of the other planets must also be locked on their surfaces. But they are so far away that they are just dots of light in the sky. Astronomers gazed at those dots, but only on one of them could they make out anything that looked remotely like the landforms of the Earth.

Giants - as Voyager encountered the planet itself, it found that Saturn was made of the same gases as Jupiter. These two worlds are the great gas giants of the solar system, dwarfing all the other planets.

Moon - rock was almost identical to the most basic kind of rock on Earth It was basalt, which forms when molten rock from inside a planet seeps through the surface, then cools and solidifies.

Star - planets are bound by the gravity of our sun. They were formed as a by-product of its creation. But there's a more fundamental bond between the planets and the stars. The very stuff of life is built inside them.
Atmosphere - fascinating thing about the Earth compared to the other planets is that we have the most unpredictable weather in the whole solar system. So, how did Mars and Venus, both rocky planets like the Earth, get such different atmospheres from our own?

Life - The planets would not have been biologically isolated. This material going back and forth would have been, sort of, like swapping spit between the planets. In 1996, for a while some scientists thought they had found proof that life had travelled to Earth from Mars. We conceived of life having originated on Earth, having written its full history on Earth. But now we realize that Earth is not an island. It's connected to the other planets.

Destiny - Among the galaxies that Hubble has photographed, there must be a myriad of other planets. But to see even the planets in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, we need a vast telescope in space. Like Voyager looking back at our family of planets, telescopes in space may one day allow us to look at distant worlds. The Earth is very insignificant at least in a cosmic sense. Very significant to us.
 
BBC The Planets Different Worlds Different Worlds
 
BBC The Planets Terra Firma Terra Firma
 
BBC The Planets Giants Giants
 
BBC The Planets Moon Moon
 
BBC The Planets Star BBC The Planets Star
 
BBC The Planets Atmosphere The Planets Atmosphere
 
BBC The Planets Life The Planets Life
 
BBC The Planets Destiny The Planets Destiny
 

Quotes


The curious thing is that the craters on Mars were also a surprise to most planetary astronomers. After a journey that took in a fly-by of Venus, by February, Mariner 10 was nearing its target.

The inner planets. The survivors of a life-or-death struggle. Mercury, Venus and Mars. Each bearing the scars of creation.

No geological activity of any kind has wiped Mercury's face clean. Outside, it is baking hot, but inside, stone cold. There could be no geology on Jupiter and the other giant planets - they have no solid surface.

The views that we achieved there of each of those outer planets far exceeded any expectations, but it was a ghostly feeling of having already been there, myself flying that mission in my mind in the 1960s.

I drew the positions of the planets versus the date. And the thing that caught my attention immediately was that the lines for Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune all crossed in about the 1975-76 time period.

"The eyes of the world now look into space, to the Moon and to the planets beyond. And we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

By the early 1970s, fresh ideas were emerging about the origins of all the planets. The early solar system was thought to have been a violent place, with many bodies growing rapidly and competing for space.

And in many ways, what we learned about the Moon, we took to Mars, and Venus, and Jupiter and other planets in the Solar System. And it really was the stepping stone for human beings, to follow their vision and their imagination, and begin to explore the whole universe around.


As the spacecraft Voyager visited all the outer planets, it picked up the same tell tale signature of solar wind buffeting magnetic fields.


In the last 400 years, science has peeled back the blinding layers of our sun, to reveal a star, one of the countless engines of creation, which made the planets, which made us. Our ancestors saw a perfect disc of light. A god. Science has revealed an entity more powerful than they could ever have imagined.


So they could've carried organisms from one planet to another. The planets would not have been biologically isolated.


But the further we venture in our search for new worlds, the more we are struck by the special beauty of our own planet. Our tiny Earth remains, for us, the most inspiring body in the universe.



Pictures



After a journey of eight months, Mariner 4 was homing in on its target
After a journey of eight months, Mariner 4 was homing in on its target
  Geologists are now returning to the Earth's neighboring planets
Geologists are now returning to the Earth's neighboring planets
 
Ganymede is bigger than the planet Mercury
Ganymede is bigger than the planet Mercury
  Discovering the origin of the Moon became the stated scientific goal of the American lunar program
Discovering the origin of the Moon became the stated scientific goal of the American lunar program
 
Earth has a magnetic field that stretches far out into space
Earth has a magnetic field that stretches far out into space
  Four and a half billion years ago, the planets formed from a giant cloud of dust and ice
Four and a half billion years ago, the planets formed from a giant cloud of dust and ice
 
What happened billions of years ago on the other planets
What happened billions of years ago on the other planets
  There are 100 billion individual stars within our galaxy
There are 100 billion individual stars within our galaxy