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Ghost Canyon

'Nova: The Planets' [2-Blu-Ray]
(2-Blu-ray / NR / 2019 / BBC Earth - PBS)

Overview: The four planets closest to the sun, called the rocky planets, were born from the same material in the same era.

Only on Earth do we find the unique conditions for life as we know it.

But why only here? Were Earth's neighbors always so extreme? And is there somewhere else in the solar system life might flourish?

Blu-ray Verdict: Among the stars in the night sky wander the worlds of our own solar system - each home to truly awe-inspiring sights: a volcano three times as tall as Everest, geysers erupting with icy plumes, a cyclone larger than Earth that's been churning for hundreds of years, et al.

In this engaging and rather terrific new five-part series, NOVA explores the awesome beauty of The Planets.

With special effects and extraordinary footage captured by orbiters, landers and rovers, you'll get up-close look at Saturn's 45,000-mile-wide rings, Mars' towering ancient waterfalls, and Neptune's supersonic winds.

For me, one of the most amazing stand out segments here is the one on Saturn's 45,000-mile-wide rings. For nearly a billion miles from the Sun lies perhaps the most captivating and beloved planet: Saturn.

Over the past 40 years, a handful of space probes has given us glimpses of this gas giant, relaying tantalizing discoveries like a massive hexagonal jet-stream that caps its north pole.

But it was NASA¡¯s Cassini, which toured Saturn¡¯s realm for 13 years, that delivered the most astounding new insights. Saturn¡¯s icy rings¡ªabout 45,000 miles wide and only 30 feet thick¡ªturn out to be younger than the dinosaurs, raising questions about their origins.

This new documentary ponders the theory that perhaps they could be the remnants of a moon ripped apart by Saturn¡¯s gravity. No matter what caused it though, NOVA takes you inside Cassini¡¯s epic journey as it makes its most stunning discovery yet: geysers of ice and gas on the moon Enceladus show that it could have all the ingredients for life.

Another segment that is sure to enthrall you is all about Mars' towering ancient waterfalls. Hot on the wet heels of the recent discovery of blue pools on Mars comes images - via Google Mars, I kid you not - of what looks like a blue waterfall cascading over the edge of a Martian crater and down its sides.

OK, sure, it's not the first waterfall discovered on Mars, but it sure is the bluest! Images resembling waterfalls have been found on Mars in the past with the initial one from the Mars Global Surveyor at the time making the discovery in 2003 (before the advent of Google Mars!)

Getting technical about it for a second, the waterfall was discovered by Argentine UFO researcher Marcelo Irazusta at the Google Mars coordinates: 7¡ã 38¡¯31.40¡åN 166¡ã14¡¯3.57¡åE. That location is the Zunil Crater, a 6.5 mile (10.4 km) wide crater named for a town in Guatemala. First spotted by the Viking 1 and Viking 2 Mars orbiters, the current images were taken by the Mars Global Surveyor¡¯s Mars Orbiter Camera in 2000.

Neptune's supersonic winds is another wondrous chapter here too for as we quickly discover, Neptune, the eighth and farthest planet from the sun, has the strongest winds in the solar system.

At high altitudes speeds can exceed 1,100 mph. That is 1.5 times faster than the speed of sound. In 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made the first and only close-up observations of Neptune.

Detailed images taken by the spacecraft revealed bright, white clouds and two colossal storms whipping around the planet's atmosphere. Neptune is a gas giant composed primarily of hydrogen and helium.

Methane gas makes up only one or two percent of the atmosphere but absorbs longer wavelengths of sunlight in the red part of the spectrum, giving the planet its brilliant blue color.

In 'Nova: The Planets,' scientists share the inside story of the missions that revealed everything from methane lakes on a distant moon to the mysterious unfrozen sea in Pluto's heart.

Furthermore, along the way, NOVA reveals how each of these spectacular worlds has shaped our own planet: Earth. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs to 1080p High Definition.

www.PBS.org





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