Watch This Space: 10 Must-See Documentaries About the Universe
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The Universe is fascinating. Billions of stars, millions of planets, and the vastness of space attract our attention and make us want to contribute to science Can We Contribute To Space Exploration? These 7 Online Tools Say We Can Can We Contribute To Space Exploration? These 7 Online Tools Say We Can What about the man on the sidewalk? The high-schooler in the science class? The mother who once dreamt of suiting up for a space flight? Will there dreams remain so, or can they contribute to... Read More . Documentaries about the Universe help to show the greatness of the galaxies and the awe-inspiring cosmos that scientists are still trying to explain.

Some docs focus on incredible graphics and stunning visuals. Others focus on explaining why the Universe is the way it is. The best ones combine everything: stunning visuals, excellent explanations, awesome music, and great hosts to deliver truly worthwhile content.

Here is a list of some of the best documentaries about the Universe. Because, as William Shatner once suggested in his role as Captain Kirk, space really is the final frontier. After watching all of these, you might just want to become an astronaut. Or perhaps not. Either way, we’re sure these docs will inspire you to think about the worlds beyond our own.

2015: The Year of Pluto

Let’s start with the recent #PlutoFlyby mission by the New Horizons probe. The probe has already delivered photos of Pluto and is expected to send back more data that is sure to capture our attention. Space is cool again! Finally.

A fascinating one-hour documentary was made before the probe set out on its mission to give us answers about how the journey started and why it matters. Interviews with Dr. James Green, Mark Showalter, and John Spencer give us great explanations on the hard science, and why the probe is an important tool to finding answers about Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the donut-shaped region of icy objects.

The Age of Hubble

Before New Horizons became the most popular man-made object in the cosmos, the Hubble Space Telescope was all the rave. Incredible images from the telescope were transmitted to scientists after it was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. The still-operational spacecraft has been taking extremely high-resolution images of space and time, often leading to breakthroughs in astrophysics such as measuring the rate of expansion in the Universe. How cool is that?

If you want to see the awesomeness of space captured by different telescopes, including Hubble, you should watch The Age of Hubble.

BBC Horizon: Voyager Encounter with Jupiter

We can’t talk about New Horizons and Hubble without mentioning Voyager, the two space probes launched “to extend the NASA exploration of the solar system beyond the neighborhood of the outer planets to the outer limits of the Sun’s sphere of influence, and possibly beyond.”

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) created a documentary to explain Voyager’s Jupiter mission, which occurred in 1979. The 1980 documentary does a great job of explaining the probes’ missions, with additional information about Jupiter’s moons, the Great Red Spot, and more also being explained.

Knowing that the probes started on their journey more than 30 years ago, are still being tracked, and will eventually make contact with another star is impressive. Watching how the Voyagers got started is even more impressive, making this film a true must see.

Decoding the Universe: The Great Math Mystery

Is math an invention or a man-made discovery? That is the main question explored in this PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) documentary that aired in April 2015. The doc follows “math from Pythagoras to Einstein and beyond,” with astrophysicist and writer Mario Livio helping to explain “the great math mystery”.

This is a must-watch documentary for anyone interested in math’s place in the Universe, and keen to hear about what we might discover next.

Journey to the Edge of the Universe

In 2008, a fascinating documentary was broadcast on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. The visually stunning space ride takes the audience on a trip to the very edge of the Universe and explains the beautiful-but-extreme nature of the cosmos. The American version is narrated by Alec Baldwin, with Sean Pertwee narrating the British version.

Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is one of the most acclaimed scientists of this generation. His insights into the Universe are ones that many people want to hear. The 2010 TV mini-series written by the British physicist features Aliens, Time Travel, and The Story of Everything, with incredible graphics and interesting explanations from the theoretical physicist and cosmologist.

“Now is a good time to be alive, I think. We may only be an advanced breed of monkey, living on a small planet, but we are able to contemplate the universe as a whole, which makes us very special.” Stephen Hawking, cosmologist

There’s nothing not to like — great storylines, cool cinematography, and exceptional insights from Hawking himself. Do yourself a favor and check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman

Through the Wormhole is a science TV series narrated and hosted by actor Morgan Freeman. It explores the deepest mysteries of the universe, with explanations from renowned scientists on string theory, the beginnings of life, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and more. The thought-provoking episodes seek to answer the big questions: Is Time Travel Possible?What Happened Before the Beginning?Are Robots the Future of Human Evolution?, and Is Reality Real?, among others.

With a heady mix of personal stories and the help of renowned scientists, Freeman is able to give us a simplified and equally interesting insight into these dense subject matters. Which makes this more than worth watching.

Cosmos: A Personal Journey

This 13-part television series inspired millions of viewers, and is often referred to as the best space documentary that there is, ever was, or ever will be. Cosmos: A Personal Journey is hosted by Carl Sagan and aired in 1980 on PBS, spending the next 10 years as the most-watched program on American public television and winning two Emmys and a Peabody award. It has aged rather well, remaining thought-provoking and educational, and is sure to interest anyone wanting to learn about the cosmos.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Neil deGrasse Tyson was one of the people inspired by Sagan’s Cosmos. To mark his appreciation, Tyson presented a sequel along similar lines, with updated information and graphics. Just like the 1980s original, this 13-part sequel also won a Peabody and other television awards.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a must-see documentary and offers a fresh look into what Carl Sagan wanted to teach us. Namely, that “somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known”.

UFOs: Out of the Blue

Anyone interested in learning about the Universe is also likely to be interested in aliens. Many documentaries have been made on the subject, but Out of the Blue is considered to be one of the most comprehensive films looking at the possibility of life on other planets. It explores the idea that we are not alone in the Universe, with an educational look into the chances that other worlds with intelligent life are out there just waiting to be discovered.

Even if you consider yourself a skeptic, after watching Out of the Blue you may just be convinced that aliens are out there.

Now Is a Good Time to Be Alive

Stephen Hawking has previously stated, “now is a good time to be alive.” And he’s correct in his assessment. We have finally started to invest more time and money into understanding the cosmos, space is cool once again, and there are a surprising number of future space missions to look forward to.

All of this activity is sure to lead to even more entertaining and educational documentaries being produced in the future. Which is something we should all get excited about.

Want more content to indulge the space geek in you? Explore these websites that celebrate man’s first moon landing 5 Sites for Space Geeks to Celebrate and Relive the First Moon Landing 5 Sites for Space Geeks to Celebrate and Relive the First Moon Landing Humankind landed on the moon 50 years ago. Relieve this historical moment through these cool websites if you are a space buff. Read More .

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  1. Kay Bowyer
    February 11, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    my all time favourite is journey to the edge of the universe.
    I watch this all the time, it teaches me
    and it helps me to sleep
    ( sean pertwee) version

  2. Jason
    April 20, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    How the Universe Works. I really enjoyed the episodes the Big Bang, Galaxies, Supermassive Black Holes, and especially the episode Stars as it shows size scales of other stars dwarfing our own.

  3. Simon Honkanen
    January 30, 2017 at 9:20 am

    National geographics series 'how the universe works' is probably the best that i have seen. Some documentaries mentioned in this list are somewhat unscientific and speculative projecting the values and opinions of the makers onto the wiever.

  4. Anonymous
    August 27, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Lovely documentaries - I was told"the knights of the brown hole' is fantastic..cannot find it on the net, anyone has a copy?

  5. Anonymous
    July 29, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    "Are there any documentaries we didn’t mention that you personally think should have made the list?"
    The Way the Universe Works. It is being shown by the Science Channel.

    • Shay Meinecke
      July 31, 2015 at 9:33 am

      I've heard nothing but good things!

  6. Anonymous
    July 28, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Billions of stars and millions of planets? Lets try trillions of stars and billions of planets. Nearly every star you see (and don't see) has at least one planet that orbits its host. The vastness of those numbers are incomprehensible to a lot of people. To put the vastness of space in perspective if you was to take a ride on ship that travels at the speed of light across our galaxy it would take the person 100,000 years to reach from one side to the other. That is just OUR galaxy. There are literally BILLIONS of galaxies out there! I don't like it when people diminish the vastness of space. It irks me. Lol

    • Shay Meinecke
      July 29, 2015 at 5:22 am

      Thanks for your comment. And I agree, the vastness of space is truly astounding! Even trillions of stars and billions of planets may not do justice to the vast number of objects in space. Btw, which doc was your favorite or which favorite doc of yours was left of the list? I wouldn’t mind watching a space video series I haven’t seen before.