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A Plethora of Planets

Episode 28 of 30

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 02 July 2008

Heather Couper presents a narrative history of astronomy.

For centuries, people have been speculating on the origin of the Earth and other planets. As long ago as 1755 the philosopher Imanuel Kant suggested that our solar system may have been born from a rotating cloud or nebula of gas and dust. But it was not until an infrared telescope was sent into space in 1983 that astronomers began to gather images of such dusty discs around other young stars.

In 1955 Eugene Shoemaker showed that a crater in Arizona was blasted out by the impact of a large rock from space. He went on to show that most of the craters on the moon resulted from similar impacts, early in the history of the solar system. The dawn of the space age is enabling us to begin to explore the rocks in our cosmic backyard and speculate about worlds beyond.

Readers are Timothy West, Robin Sebastian, Julian Rhind-Tutt and John Palmer.


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