NOVA At The Edge Of Space at 7 pm
Between the blue sky above us and the infinite blackness of space lies a frontier that scientists have only just begun to investigate. In “At the Edge of Space,” NOVA takes viewers on aN exploration of the earth-space boundary zone that’s home to some of nature’s most puzzling and alluring phenomena: the shimmering aurora, streaking meteors, and fleeting flashes that shoot upwards from thunderclouds, known as sprites. Only discovered in 1989, sprites have eluded capture because they flicker into existence for a mere split-second — 40 times faster than an eye blink. In a high-flying weather observation plane, we ride with scientists as they hunt for sprites and finally succeed in snaring them in 3D video, gaining vital clues to unraveling their mystery. Combining advanced video technology with sequences shot from the International Space Station, this film probes the enigmas of the boundary zone and brings viewers an intriguing new viewpoint on their planet.
NOVA Asteroid: Doomsday Or Payday? at 8 pm
The asteroid that exploded in the skies over Siberia injuring more than 1,000 and damaging buildings in six cities was a shocking reminder that Earth is a target in a cosmic shooting range. From the width of a football field to the size of a small city, the space rocks called asteroids have the potential to be killers: in a collision with Earth, they could set off deadly blast waves, raging fires and colossal tidal waves. But some audacious entrepreneurs look up at asteroids and see payday, not doomsday. That’s because some asteroids are loaded with billions of dollars-worth of elements like iron, nickel and even platinum. While NASA plans an ambitious mission to return samples from a potentially hazardous asteroid, would-be asteroid miners are dreaming up their own program to scout for potentially profitable asteroids. Will asteroids turn out to be our economic salvation — or instruments of extinction?
Comet Encounter at 9 pm
Comets have fascinated, even terrified us for thousands of years. Traditionally seen as harbingers of doom, they can influence some people even to this day. For scientists though, comets are a great opportunity. This year a particularly massive chunk of ice and rock is hurtling our way, an object that will fascinate billions and should create the space show of the century. Right now Comet ISON, somewhere between one and 10 kilometers in diameter, is just beyond the orbit of Jupiter. As it races past us toward the sun it should develop a tail that will light up the skies brighter than a full moon. Then the comet will slingshot around the back of the sun and could emerge brighter than ever, treating the entire northern hemisphere to an unforgettable sight. It could even be visible in daylight. Simultaneously astronomers will be able to glean vital clues on the origins of our solar system. In this program, scientists all over the world follow a once-in-a-lifetime event and shoot breath-taking images of the sun-grazer comet, spewing its essence into the void. But there is jeopardy too; the comet could evaporate completely or the sun’s massive gravity could tear it apart. If the latter happens it will produce a so-called “string of pearls,” several much smaller comets arching right across the night sky.