Cosmic Journeys – Supervolcanoes

They are eruptions so vast, so Earth-shattering, they have changed the history of our planet. Climate collapse. Toxic turmoil. Mass extinction. Worse than a killer asteroid, or nuclear war, they are Earth’s most destructive Supervolcanoes.

North America, the time was six hundred and forty thousand years ago, long before humans arrived on the continent. Amid one of nature’s great mountain building projects, the Rockies, vast columns of smoke began to rise high into the atmosphere. And soon a smokey haze wrapped the globe.

A thick blanket of ashe spread over the western United States. Geologists have traced this event to a depression in the land known as a caldera, in the heart of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Today, we venture to Yellowstone to admire its spectacles of steam and boiling mud.

Visitors to Yellowstone may never suspect they are atop one of the world’s largest active volcanoes.

The last time it blew, it sent an estimated 1000 cubic kilometers of dirt, rocks, ashe, dust, and soot into the atmosphere. But that’s small compared to Earth’s largest super volcanoes. Find out what made Toba, Siberian Traps, Deccan Traps and other super eruptions so powerful.

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Cosmic Journeys – Fate of Antarctica

The episode of Cosmic Journeys explores the intersection of paleoclimate and current climate science. Through its turbulent history, Antarctica has played an important role in the evolution of planet Earth. This role will likely continue as a warming global climate begins to eat away at the ice sheets that cover the continent. The fate of the world as we know it is linked to the fate of Antarctica.

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Life: Destiny or Chance – PREVIEW

Our latest episode of Cosmic Journeys. We ask the question: Are the universe and its physical laws so fine-tuned that the rise of life is inevitable? Or is life a fluke, a lucky roll of cosmic dice? The film investigates the rise of one important component of life, water. It turns out that the universe is laden with water, a byproduct of dust kicked out and spread around by supernovas and black holes.

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Cosmic Journeys – Life: Destiny or Chance?

Are the universe and its physical laws so fine-tuned that the rise of life is inevitable? Or is life a fluke, a lucky roll of cosmic dice? We look for the answer in the rise of two important components of life, dust and water. It turns out that the universe is laden with water, a byproduct of dust kicked out and spread around by supernovas and black holes.

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Interstellar flight: 10 Hard Facts

We can build powerful rockets able to carry people and machines into orbit, or even vault them to the moon. But our fastest spacecraft don’t hold a candle to the distances that define Interstellar Flight. So what’s on the drawing boards? What futuristic designs and fuel options promise to one day transport us to the stars, and how practical are they?

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Supermassive Black Holes: 10 Astounding Facts

Find out what astronomers have been learning when they look deep into the core of giant galaxies. In nearly every one, they are turning up supermassive black holes that are tearing space to shreds, blasting away at their environments, and raging against the relentless force of gravity that created them in the first place.

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Super Earths: 10 Major Discoveries

A Super Earth is a planet smaller than Neptune, but larger than Earth. There are no Super Earths in our solar system. But they may be the most common type of planet in our galaxy, according to data from the Kepler Space Telescope. Some have rock or ice cores wrapped in hydrogen and helium gas. Others are solid rock covered in water or ice, or flowing lava.

The planet HD189733b may become a Super Earth. This gas giant orbits its parent star at 1/30th the distance between Earth and the Sun. A flare from the star blasted its atmosphere, sending a plume of gas flying into space at a rate of 1000 tons per second.

GJ 1214b, orbiting a star 40 light years away, has a mass 6 times that of Earth. It is surrounded by an atmosphere of steam or thick haze.

HD 85512b is 3.6 times the mass of Earth. It orbits a sun-like star and lies at the edge of the habitable zone. Liquid water, and perhaps even life, could exist on its surface. Gliese 667 is a triple star system. The fainter of the three, 667C, has been found to host three Super Earths, all within the Continue reading Super Earths: 10 Major Discoveries

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Interstellar Flight – Preview

Our newest Cosmic Journeys episode. Explores the challenges of interstellar flight and the technological possibilities that may one day send us on a long voyage out into the galaxy. The video asks what imperatives will define the mission when it launches and finally arrives… exploration and science, or survival.

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Stunning New View of Planetary Genesis

From ESO-Cast. A new image from ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, reveals extraordinarily fine detail that has never been seen before in the planet-forming disc around a young star. These are the first observations that have used ALMA in its near-final configuration and the sharpest pictures ever made at submillimetre wavelengths. The new results are an enormous step forward in the observation of how protoplanetary discs develop and how planets form.

For ALMA’s first observations in its new and most powerful mode, researchers pointed the antennas at HL Tauri — a young star, about 450 light-years away, which is surrounded by a dusty disc. The resulting image exceeds all expectations and reveals unexpectedly fine detail in the disc of material left over from star birth. It shows a series of concentric bright rings, separated by gaps.

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