The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide


In these six programmes Adam Hart-Davis and his team visit the spectacular places where the exploration of the universe is being pushed to new limits. They include the world’s biggest experiment, the Californian observatory at the centre of the search for ET, and the biggest telescope in the world, high in Chile’s Atacama desert, seeing the most distant things in the universe. Adam's co-presenters are Dr Maggie Aderin (above left) and Dr Janet Sumner (above right)

The Cosmos: A Beginner’s Guide tackles big questions about the universe: How was it made? Are we alone? What’s the furthest thing we can see? Is there another earth somewhere? Where is the most exciting place to explore? In each programme, presenter Adam Hart-Davis takes on one huge idea, and heads for the place most likely to provide an answer.

To find out How far we can see, he is at the Very Large Telescope, high in Chile’s Atacama Desert. It is a barren and spectacular location, but the very best place in the world to see the universe. To answer the question: Are we alone? Adam drove into the wilds of Northern California, to the Allen Telescope Array, the new nerve centre of the hunt for extra terrestrial intelligence. If humans are going to hear from ET, our first 24 hour a day, 7 day a week alien hunting machine is where the message is likely to arrive. How do you build a universe? Adam joins the 7,000 scientists working on the world’s largest experiment, ramming tiny particles together at nearly the speed of light. Buried 100 metres under Geneva, this machine aims to create conditions not seen since the Big Bang, releasing particles that were present at the very start of the universe.

Is there another earth? The search for other worlds takes Adam to the peak of La Palma in the Canary Islands, to meet the team finding distant planets beyond the solar system. For now they can only find giant planets bigger than Jupiter – but how long will it be before they find another one like ours? To investigate The Violent Universe, Adam joins the team in Leicester using an amazing new spacecraft to home in on the biggest bangs since the Big Bang, but also finds signs of violence much closer to home on the sun and the moon. Finally Adam asks what is the cutting edge of Exploring the universe? He is based at Europe’s space exploration HQ near Amsterdam, and investigates how astronauts will get to Mars – and how they’d survive once they got there – as well as finding out about Voyager, the first bit of man-made hardware to leave the Solar System, and new ways of getting into space without a rocket.

The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide is made for the Open University and BBC2. Commissioning Executive for the OU/BBC is Mark Jacobs, with Martin Davidson taking that role for the channel. At the Open University Janet Sumner is head of science broadcasts, and our academic advisors were Dr Dave Rothery and Dr Andrew Norton.

Produced and directed by Louise Say and Paul Bader

Associate Producers Nicki Dixon and Luke Donnellan

Senior Researcher Amy Foster

Researcher Jess Baker

Executive Producer Paul Bader


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