In this episode of The History Channel‘s The Universe series, telescopes are pointed outside of our solar system to explore and contemplate the absolutely daunting massiveness of the universe.
The show starts off with some basic astronomy lessons, as scientists and researchers discuss just how big the universe is and how big our own Milky Way galaxy is by using some simple comparisons of size that our minds can somewhat get a grasp on. For example, if our Sun was the dot of an “i” in a book, the Milky Way would be the size of the continental United States. Scientists discuss the different types of galaxies, as well as other celestial bodies such as quasars.
The show then goes on to explore the age of galaxies and the universe, with a focus on The Big Bang. This segment gets a little “heady” as you have to understand light speed and the notion that the light from the stars we see in the sky is like looking back in time — what we see in the sky is the light that left a star millions of light years ago and is finally reaching Earth. Using this theory, the scientists discuss how more powerful telescopes, like The Hubble for instance, are able to see further and further “back in time” to the infancy of the universe.
Alien Galaxies finishes up with an overall view of the most mystifying and popular item in both science fact and science fiction — the black hole, a mass so dense that nothing can escape its gravitational pull. Scientists have recently discovered that within the center of our Milky Way is a mega black hole, and that is where most of the focus lies in this segment.
Throughout the episode are some magnificent and beautiful images of stars and galaxies taken by The Hubble Telescope and others from around the globe. Computer simulations are also included to give a more close-up view of stars and the black hole, a feat that would otherwise be impossible.
Anyone who has taken an Astronomy 101 class will know most if not all of the information presented in this episode, though it does serve as a good refresher course to remind you that you do know this stuff. For armchair scientists out there, you’ll definitely be able to pick up a few new factoids from this entertaining look at what lies far beyond our solar system.
The Universe series episodes air on Tuesday at 9pm on the History Channel through September 4, 2007, and will be available on DVD October 30, 2007.