Segments in this Video

Violent Beginnings (01:28)


Earth has undergone collisions, volcanism and mass extinctions. The solar system was born in a maelstrom; boulders collided to form planets.

Mercury Mantle Disaster (04:43)

The solar system's smallest planet is closest to the sun; 40% of its volume comes from its iron core. Scientists discuss its density and thin mantle.

Saturn's Shattered Moon (03:36)

The planet's rings consist mostly of ice. Scientists believe that a moon's frozen surface was pulled into its orbit during a collision.

Orbital Maelstrom (03:56)

Jupiter and Saturn interacted with leftover planetesimals, which affected their orbits. Their two to one resonance destabilized orbits of Neptune and Uranus. Several planets were hurled out of the solar system.

Late Heavy Bombardment (02:02)

The orbital maelstrom created asteroids; Jupiter and Saturn's two to one resonance channeled them into the inner solar system. The moon's crater record confirmed that lunar cataclysm was caused by the event.

Mars Mega-Meteorite Impact (02:11)

The Martian northern hemisphere was sliced off by a Pluto sized planet during the Late Heavy Bombardment. The impact created the Borealis Basin.

Mars Magnetic Disaster (03:23)

Scientists discuss the loss of Martian atmosphere and magnetism. The planet's small size and absence of temperature inflections could account for the loss of its protective field, which is necessary to sustain liquid water and potential life.

Mars Super Eruptions (03:57)

Martian topography and crater dating revealed five episodes of rampant volcanism; Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system. Without plate tectonics, magma flowed for centuries and altered the planet's surface.

Great Venus Meltdown (05:51)

Earth's closest neighbor may once have been habitable. Scientists consider runaway greenhouse effects and planetary impact as culprits for temperature increases; collision would account for the planet's counter rotation.

Shoemaker Levy 9 Impacts (07:38)

Jupiter is the solar system's largest planet and has the greatest gravitational pull. In July 1994, it was bombarded by a string of comets, creating venting scars, and tilting the planet's rings. In July 2009, an asteroid impacted near its south pole.

Planetary Armageddon (03:33)

In billions of years, Jupiter and Mercury will change orbits and affect other planets. Impacts with the sun, Venus and Earth are possible results of the shift. Disturbances in the Oort cloud could initiate an asteroid bombardment. (Credits)

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Catastrophes that Changed the Planets

Part of the Series : The Universe
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



The planets of our solar system have experienced epic catastrophes throughout their long history, both raining down from outside and bubbling up from within.

Length: 45 minutes

Item#: BVL160944

Copyright date: ©2011

Closed Captioned

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