There’s nothing better than putting your feet up and watching something good on television – especially if it just happens to be about asteroids. Here’s our guide to some of the best documentaries about the minor bodies of the solar system. With easy language and fascinating images they can quickly engage the viewer. Let’s check some out.
Asteroid Hunters: This documentary premiered last October and features astronomers, engineers and other scientists who are working to scan the sky for asteroids. It explains in detail how the researchers are monitoring the space rocks that may become potential threats to our planet in the future. Asteroid Hunters is narrated by actress Daisy Ridley, who played Rey in the most recent Star Wars trilogy. By watching Asteroid Hunters we have a chance to learn about the origins of asteroids, the ways in which teams of scientists are trying to increase the safety of our planet, and the importance of continuing these studies for our survival in the future. Watch the trailer.
NOVA: This long-running television series is produced by PBS and WGBH-TV. It covers many scientific topics and has fascinated generations since 1974. One of its 2020 season episodes is called Touching the Asteroid and presents a detailed look at the OSIRIS-REx mission, which touched and collected samples from asteroid Bennu last October. This episode describes crucial moments from this mission that will help scientists understand the origin of asteroids, and contribute to the creation of new ways to defend our planet. Watch the prologue.
How the Universe Works: This Discovery Channel documentary series about the Universe was created in 2010 and has now been running for eight seasons. In the episode that opens the 2020 season (Asteroid Apocalypse – The New Threat) we can learn about the consequences for our planet if it were to collide with a massive asteroid.
Edge of the Universe: In the second of three episodes of this miniseries we have an overview of the smaller bodies of the Solar System and their contribution to the destiny of life on Earth, both to the origin of life and to the threat they pose. The episode is called Killers in Space.
Cosmos: A spacetime odyssey: this remake of the famous documentary originally presented by Carl Sagan has a few episodes that explain the asteroids. In episode seven, The Clean Room, current presenter Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us about dating the Earth and how its age corresponds to the age of the asteroid belt, as derived by examining the debris from impact sites such as Meteor Crater, in Arizona, USA. The ninth episode, The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth, describes the mass extinctions that occurred on our planet, including the asteroid event that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The Planets: This series produced by the BBC and presented by the physicist Brian Cox has five episodes. In the third, The Godfather – Jupiter, you learn how the asteroids’ orbits can be influenced by the gravitational pull of planets like Jupiter and how this can influence where the asteroids eventually end up in the Solar System.
Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds: Recently launched, this programme by famous filmmaker Werner Herzog documents the exploration of impact craters and the influence of falling meteorites on the world’s cultures. We can learn that some stories told by people for generations have been influenced by these celestial events and this can give new clues about little known impacts of the past. Watch the trailer.
Think of these documentaries as your first steps towards becoming an asteroid expert! Have good holidays and enjoy them. See you in 2021!
Asteroid Day Global Coordinator
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Saulo Machado is the Asteroid Day Global Event Coordinator. Since 2016, Saulo has been the Brazil Regional Coordinator, where he helped organizers host their Asteroid Day events all over Brazil.
With a passion for astronomy and scientific dissemination, Saulo works as a business administrator in Fortaleza, Brazil. He is the Founder of the Astronomical Events Support Group (GaeA) and hosts Asteroid Day events in observatories, planetariums and astronomy groups throughout Brazil.