Science Night 12/25

Nature Christmas In Yellowstone at 7 pm
As snow falls and Christmas lights glow in Jackson Hole, a holiday season of a different sort settles in just beyond the town, in the great winter world of Yellowstone. Breathtaking landscapes frame intimate scenes of wolves and coyotes, elk and bison, bears and otters as they make their way through their most challenging season of the year. NATURE journeys in the footsteps of the men who first explored the park, and travels with their modern-day counterpart on his own journey of discovery. From the unique crystals of individual snowflakes to the grand sweep of Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley, this is a Christmas like no other.

NOVA Building The Great Cathedrals at 8 pm
Carved from 100 million pounds of stone, soaring effortlessly atop a spiderweb of masonry, Gothic cathedrals are marvels of human achievement and artistry. But how did medieval builders reach such spectacular heights? Consuming the labor of entire towns, sometimes taking 100 years to build, these architectural marvels were crafted from just hand tools and stone. Many now teeter on the brink of catastrophic collapse. To save them, an international team of engineers, architects, art historians and computer scientists searches the naves, bays, and bell towers for clues to how the dream of these heavenly temples on earth came true. NOVA’s teams perform hands-on experiments to investigate and reveal the architectural secrets that the cathedral builders used to erect their soaring, glass-filled walls. This program reveals the hidden formulas, drawn from the pages of the Bible itself, that drove medieval builders ever upward.

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.