In the 20th century, telescopes advanced greatly in size, with apertures of optical scopes expanding from just five feet to over 30, and radio dishes growing from 30 feet across to 1,000. Discoveries kept pace: We have mapped the Milky Way with its 100 billion stars, for instance, and now accept that the universe has billions of galaxies, many anchored by a supermassive black hole at the center. But to address some of the most pressing cosmological questions today—what is dark matter? dark energy? is there life elsewhere?—space scientists agree that we need much bigger and much better eyes on the sky.
NOVA examines how a simple instrument, the telescope, has fundamentally changed our understanding of our place in the universe. What began as a curiosity—two spectacle lenses held a foot apart—ultimately revolutionized human thought across science, philosophy, and religion.
“Hunting the Edge of Space” takes viewers on a global adventure of discovery, dramatizing the innovations in technology and the achievements in science that have marked the rich history of the telescope.