The Best Episodes of How the Universe Works

A users' guide to the cosmos, from the Big Bang to galaxies, stars, planets and moons: where did it all come from and how does it all fit together? A primer for anyone who has ever looked up at the night sky and wondered.

Black Holes

#1 - Black Holes

Season 1 - Episode 2

Black Holes,the most powerful destroyers in the Universe, the most mysterious phenomena in the heavens. For years they were only speculation, now modern astronomy is proving them frighteningly real and showing that they may well shape everything we see.

star 8.27
189 votes
Directors: Peter Chinn
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#2 - Supernovas

Season 1 - Episode 6

Stars are not eternal; they are dying in unimaginably large explosions called supernovas. Second only to the Big Bang, these explosions are where creation and destruction meet. Only now have we begun to understand how these wonders in our sky work.

star 8.25
112 votes
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#3 - Stars

Season 1 - Episode 4

The story of how stars were made by the Universe and how Stars then went on to engineer everything else in that very universe. They changed the Universe by spawning further generations of stars, then planets and eventually the building blocks of life.

star 8.24
149 votes
Directors: Peter Chinn
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Big Bang

#4 - Big Bang

Season 1 - Episode 1

This is the greatest story ever told, the creation of everything us. The programme investigates how the Universe came into existence out of nothing, and how it grew from a miniscule point, smaller than an atomic particle, to the vast cosmos we see today.

star 8.23
265 votes
Directors: Louise Say
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#5 - Planets

Season 1 - Episode 5

There are just eight planets in our solar system, but there could be a hundred billion planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone. This show follows the journey of planets as they grow from grains of dust to the magnificently diverse worlds we see today.

star 8.17
125 votes
Directors: Lorne Townend
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#6 - Galaxies

Season 1 - Episode 3

Galaxies, home to stars, planets and us, come in all shapes and sizes. Witnesses the evolution of galaxies; from clouds of cold gas floating in the voids of space 13 billion years ago, to the magnificent spirals that fill our night sky.

star 8.17
170 votes
Directors: Louise Say
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Birth of the Earth

#7 - Birth of the Earth

Season 2 - Episode 8

The Earth was formed by a series of cataclysms without which we would not exist. Could the same events have created other earth-like planets elsewhere in the Universe inhabited by creatures like us?

star 8.16
70 votes
Directors: George Harris
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#8 - Moons

Season 1 - Episode 8

Moons come in every possible shape and size. Home to incredible natural phenomena like gigantic geysers and colossal volcanoes, moons also offer perhaps the best chance of finding alien life in the Universe - and they probably exist in the billions.

star 8.08
104 votes
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Our Voyage to the Stars

#9 - Our Voyage to the Stars

Season 3 - Episode 8

One day, a cosmic disaster will make life on Earth impossible. To survive, we must find a new home amongst the stars. Scientists are already developing new propulsion systems to take us to these distant worlds.

star 8.07
75 votes
Solar Systems

#10 - Solar Systems

Season 1 - Episode 7

Is our solar system unique? Since the first discovery of a planet orbiting another star, some 280 alien solar systems have been identified. It's only by looking at solar systems far beyond our own, that we can understand how remarkable our universe is.

star 8.06
115 votes
Directors: Lorne Townend
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Asteroids - Worlds that Never Were

#11 - Asteroids - Worlds that Never Were

Season 2 - Episode 7

From icy worlds with more fresh water than Earth to flying mountains of pure metal, asteroids shaped our past and promise much for the future. Could these enigmatic space rocks hold the key to how life in the Universe arises and is extinguished?

star 8.04
51 votes
Directors: George Harris
Extreme Orbits - Clockwork and Creation

#12 - Extreme Orbits - Clockwork and Creation

Season 2 - Episode 5

We owe our existence to the stability of earth's orbit. But we are the freaks: everywhere else we look we find orbits are chaotic, unstable, and violent. Yet on the very largest scale, orbits are also a creative force, even constructing the fabric of the universe itself.

star 8.01
81 votes
Directors: Adam Warner
Jupiter: Destroyer or Savior?

#13 - Jupiter: Destroyer or Savior?

Season 3 - Episode 3

Beneath Jupiter's clouds lie our solar system's deepest secrets: from its violent youth, through the birth of life to the death of the sun. Scientists are discovering that the solar system, the Earth and every living thing exists because of Jupiter.

star 8.01
83 votes
Did a Black Hole Build the Milky Way?

#14 - Did a Black Hole Build the Milky Way?

Season 3 - Episode 7

What built the Milky Way? New research might now have the answer, revealing an unlikely hero. At the heart of our galaxy sits a super massive black hole, one of the most destructive objects in the Universe. Could it be our creator?

star 8.01
83 votes
Is Saturn Alive?

#15 - Is Saturn Alive?

Season 3 - Episode 5

Saturn’s secrets are out. The ferocious weather, the evolving ring system and the discovery of active geology on Saturn’s moons has rewritten the textbooks. Scientists are looking for life on Saturn’s moons and they may have found it on Titan.

star 7.95
78 votes
Planets from Hell

#16 - Planets from Hell

Season 2 - Episode 3

Over the last twenty years we have discovered an extraordinary zoo of planetary nightmares outside our own solar system, all of them truly wild worlds, a collection of monsters. Now we must face the question: Is every planet out there a planet from hell?

star 7.94
87 votes
Directors: Kate Dart
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Megaflares - Cosmic Firestorms

#17 - Megaflares - Cosmic Firestorms

Season 2 - Episode 4

The Universe is a magnetic minefield. Spinning star systems crackle and explode, magnetic monsters rip worlds apart, star-quakes shoot beams of devastating energy, and galactic flamethrowers fire gamma-rays half way across the Universe. Will we find Earth in the firing line?

star 7.94
77 votes
Dawn of Life

#18 - Dawn of Life

Season 4 - Episode 5

Discovering how life on Earth came to be; the possibility that life on Earth come from another planet.

star 7.89
76 votes
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Edge of the Solar System

#19 - Edge of the Solar System

Season 4 - Episode 4

Huge magnetic bubbles millions of miles wide; strange invisible matter, and a death star tearing through bands of icy comets, flinging them into violent orbits.

star 7.89
102 votes
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Comets - Frozen Wanderers

#20 - Comets - Frozen Wanderers

Season 2 - Episode 6

We follow the odyssey of a comet as it sails through space, watching every move as it evolves from a chunk of ice and rock into an active nucleus engulfed in a gaseous haze. What we learn is a revelation; comets are even more mysterious than we imagined.

star 7.88
60 votes
Directors: Adam Warner
Monster Black Hole

#21 - Monster Black Hole

Season 4 - Episode 3

A look inside the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way to discover terrifying secrets about parallel universes, wormholes, and space-time.

star 7.88
115 votes
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The First Oceans

#22 - The First Oceans

Season 4 - Episode 7

For years, scientists suspected that the oceans came from molecules delivered to Earth from distant stars by asteroids, but a new discovery suggests that their true origins may be more exotic.

star 7.87
82 votes
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The Winds of Creation

#23 - The Winds of Creation

Season 2 - Episode 2

Destructive weather forces are symptoms of Earth's creative energy. In our quest to discover if we are alone in the universe, we shouldn't just look for worlds, we should look for weather; find that megastorm, and maybe we will find alien life.

star 7.84
81 votes
Directors: Alex Hearle
Secret History of Pluto

#24 - Secret History of Pluto

Season 5 - Episode 4

Pluto is the subject, with an investigation into whether the planet has an underground ocean. The first close-up images of Pluto revealed unimaginable secrets of this mysterious frozen world. Now, scientists investigate if Pluto is home to a warm ocean of liquid water beneath its surface, and whether this underground ocean could harbour life.

star 7.84
55 votes
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Forces of Mass Construction

#25 - Forces of Mass Construction

Season 4 - Episode 8

Scientists attempt to understand how this strange force of magnetism works.

star 7.82
92 votes
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