Professor Brian Cox, who will be delivering the Voltaire Lecture 2010 for the British Humanist Association and the South Place Ethical Society next month, is presenting a new series on BBC2, Wonders of the Solar System. “Science is different to all the other systems of thought, the belief systems that have been practiced in this city for millennia,” he says at one point, “because you don’t need faith in it, you can check that it works.”
Professor Brian Cox visits some of the most stunning locations on earth to describe how the laws of nature have carved natural wonders across the solar system.
In this first episode Brian explores the powerhouse of them all, the sun. In India he witnesses a total solar eclipse – when the link to the light and heat that sustains us is cut off for a few precious minutes.
But heat and light are not the only power of the sun over the solar system. In Norway, Brian watches the battle between the sun’s wind and earth, as the night sky glows with the northern lights.
Beyond earth, the solar wind continues, creating dazzling aurora on other planets. Brian makes contact with Voyager, a probe that has been travelling since its launch 30 years ago. Now 14 billion kilometres away, Voyager has just detected the solar wind is beginning to peter out. But even here we haven’t reached the end of the sun’s rule.
Brian explains how its greatest power, gravity, reaches out for hundreds of billions of kilometres, where the lightest gravitational touch encircles our solar system in a mysterious cloud of comets.
You can watch the first episode on iPlayer until next Sunday.