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Spectacular series explores our Solar System

A new landmark series, co-produced by the OU and the BBC, will bring to life the mysteries of the Solar System, using up-to-date CGI and the latest ground-breaking scientific knowledge.

Presented by Professor Brian Cox, The Planets is a sumptuous look at the beauty and the grandeur of eight planets, told across five episodes, beginning with A Moment In The Sun – The Terrestrial Planets on BBC2 on Tuesday May 28.

Professor Stephen Lewis

Academic Prof Stephen Lewis, who has been working behind the scenes on the production for the past two years, explains why it’s good for audiences to ponder their universe with programmes like this:

“Only by looking outwards and seeing how planets differ can we really appreciate the Earth and see where the future of humankind might lie.

This fascinating series shows how much more we now know about each planet, but there is still so much more to discover.”

Stephen is Professor of Atmospheric Physics and Deputy Head of the School of Physical Sciences at The Open University.

Co-consultant on the programme was David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences, who is also a leading member of the European Space Agency’s team, working on its current mission to Mercury, BepiColombo. He also chairs the Level 2 module S283 “Planetary Science and the Search for Life” and short courses about moons.

Professor David Rothery

Professor Rothery said:

“It was a privilege to provide science guidance for this new series. Each of the planets has a different story to tell, although there are various common themes. We cannot understand the Earth unless we also try to understand our neighbours.


Prof Lewis’ research covers the dynamics and climate of planetary atmospheres and he also leads on translating the atmospheric observations from spacecraft. He’s pioneered data assimilation techniques for Mars in particular. He explains more about the weather on the planets on the OU’s OpenLearn pages. He adds:

“Our picture of our neighbouring planets has been transformed as spacecraft send back high definition images and land on their surfaces.

We only have the first tantalising glimpses of some planets and moons; others have been visited, but we now want to drill down below the surface. Planets themselves change and evolve. The Earth is home to all the life that we know about now, but each world has its own fascinating story. “

This weekly series begins on Tuesday May 28 on BBC2 at 9pm with A Moment In The Sun – The Terrestrial Planets.

It traces the development of the four rocky worlds closest to the Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars and explains how, for a while, each had a moment when they experienced almost Earth-like conditions.

Subsequent episodes on June 4th, 11th, 18th and 25thwill cover the planets in detail, including the history of Mars and the search for life on the red planet as well as the enormous mass which is Jupiter.

Image from The Planets series

The series was commissioned by The Open University Broadcast and Partnerships team and is supported by the STEM faculty with particular reference to degree courses Q64 BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences (Earth Sciences) , R28 BSc (Hons) Combined STEM and module S283 Planetary science and the search for life

  • Commissioned by Dr Caroline Ogilvie, Head of Broadcast & Partnerships
  • Academic Consultants Prof. Stephen Lewis and Prof. David Rothery
  • Media Fellow Prof. Mark Brandon
  • Broadcast Project Manager Caroline Green
  • Digital Content Producer Georgia Axtell-Powell
  • BBC Commissioning Editor: Tom McDonald
  • BBC Executive Producer: Andrew Cohen
  • BBC Series Producer: Gideon Bradshaw

To accompany the series The Open University has produced a free poster about our Solar System’s planets and moons.  To order your copy call 0300 303 3826 or visit our website where you can also find related articles written by the OU academic consultants.

(Please note the website and/or poster may not be available until after the first transmission)

About Author

Christine is a manager in the Media Relations team within the Marcomms Unit at the OU. She is an experienced BBC journalist, sub-editor and news editor and has a background in regional newspapers. After moving to PR she worked as a press officer for the Zoological Society of London. She has a BSc in Social Sciences with Politics from The Open University; she focuses on STEM stories and widening access in HE. Chris swims regularly and has a pet Tortoise called Lightning.

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