Sir Patrick Moore presents a retrospective of five decades of The Sky ay Night, recalling the history of space exploration from the first Russian Sputnik, the major astronomical discoveries over half a century, and the people he has met, from Orville Wright to Neil Armstrong.
Astronomers have been fascinated by the idea of the Star of Bethlehem for centuries. Did it exist? And if so, what was it? The list of candidates includes some of the most exciting objects in the night sky - supernovae, comets, meteors and unusual alignments of the giant planets. In this surprising and entertaining Christmas special the Sky at Night team go in search of the potential causes of the Star of Bethlehem. The team explore the possibilities, investigating the nature of the phenomena and digging through the historical records including Babylonian clay tablets and ancient Chinese manuscripts, to reconstruct events in the night sky 2,000 years ago. Maggie Aderin-Pocock goes hunting for supernovae using the most powerful laser in Britain, and discovers that these mighty explosions caused by the death of stars can shine brighter than the moon in our sky. Chris Lintott reconstructs the night sky over Jerusalem at the time of Jesus's birth, discovering a once-in-a-millennium conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that was first suggested as a cause of the star by the great astronomer Johannes Kepler in 1604.
The Earth is bombarded by extra terrestrial material every day, but what is this cosmic debris? Sir Patrick Moore investigates comet tails, meteorites and asteroids and discovers the terrible consequences of a cosmic collision with the Earth. Also, the latest stunning images from Mars Express.
Voyager 2, launched in 1977, has already passed by the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, all of which have provided plenty of surprises. Voyager has now passed Neptune, sending back remarkable new information about the outermost planet. Patrick Moore is joined by Dr Garry Hunt and other experts from the American team to summarise what has been discovered about this lonely, remote world.
A look behind the scenes of Nasa's project to study Jupiter. As the spacecraft Juno enters Jupiter's orbit, the programme explores the dangers of the mission and what Nasa is hoping to discover about the giant planet - from the secrets of its formation to the source of the solar system's most powerful aurora.
The Sky at Night focuses all its attention on one object - M51 aka the Whirlpool Galaxy. Sitting approximately 30 million light years from Earth, this spectacular spiral galaxy was first discovered in 1773 by the French astronomer Charles Messier. It is thought to have been the inspiration behind the swirling patterns of van Gogh's Starry Night, and ever since it has fascinated astronomers and star watchers. So for this month's Sky at Night we have declared June 1st Whirlpool Galaxy Day. On this one day we will be aiming as many telescopes as possible at the galaxy.