Wonders Of The Solar System Review: Empire Of The Sun

March 5, 2010 by  
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You can hardly blame ancient civilisations for worshipping the sun like a bunch of tan-hungry Brits on holiday.

In those days the sheer relentless consistency of the life-giving orb left our early ancestors with a great deal to wonder at.

Why they felt the need to slice up various members of their society is another matter all together – but sometimes even the most sensible people get a bit carried away.

In this first episode of the BBC’s excellent new series, Wonders of the Solar System Brian Cox (Professor of Physics at the University of Manchester) explores the thing that makes everything else in our cosmic neighbourhood tick: The Sun.

We’ve all heard our fair share of sensational and unfathomable facts about the local star. Apparently it’s surface temperature is ~15.7×106 K (which in real money is about 15 million degrees celsius) and it gives off enough energy to power 47 gazillion lightbulbs for a light-year… or something.

Needless to say the facts come thick and fast, but with the help of some great graphics, Cox presents them brilliantly and this programme manages to get a real handle on the subject matter, making it very accessible and downright interesting.

Our host makes a nice change from the haggard old toffs we would usually associate with this kind of programme and this freshness embues the format with an energy that most science shows fail miserably to capture.

Cox shoots off to Varanasi, India to watch last year’s total solar eclipse and then heads back to the Northern hemisphere to enjoy the Aurora Borealis. All the while he is slowly explaining to the true size an power of the Sun. Apparently it’s gravitational field extends for 50,000 astronomical units (a fact that sounds more impressive when we find out that the Earth is just one unit out.)