Black Hole Apocalypse-NOVA PBS' 2 Hour Voyage to Most Powerful & Mysterious Objects In Universe

They are the most enigmatic, mysterious, and exotic objects in the universe: black holes. They're also the most powerful; their gravity is so strong that nothing?not even light?can escape their pull. And they're the most destructive, swallowing particles, dust, gas, planets, even giant stars. Anything that falls into them vanishes ... gone forever. But now, astrophysicists are coming to realize that black holes just might be an essential key to the structure of the universe?and to our very existence. NOVA, a production of WGBH Boston, and host Janna Levin journey to the frontiers of black hole Science in a new, one-night, two-hour special, BLACK HOLE APOCALYPSE, premiering Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 9pm ET/8C (check local listings).

In Black Hole Apocalypse, NOVA investigates recent surprising discoveries about black holes that have raised deep questions and advanced new technologies that are ushering in a golden era of astrophysics and astronomy. Guided by astrophysicist and author Janna Levin, viewers journey to the weirdest places in the cosmos to explore the profound mysteries of these gravitational monsters. Where do they come from? What's inside them? What happens if you fall into one? And what can they tell us about the nature of space, time, and gravity? Through dynamic CGI animation, Janna illustrates the principles of gravity, and even takes a trip to the edge of the black hole at the center of our galaxy. What will happen if she gets too close?

'Black holes have been a subject of deep fascination for decades,' said NOVA senior executive producer, Paula S. Apsell. 'This special is a thrilling look at what they can tell us about our understanding of space, time, and gravity?perhaps even the origins of our galaxies.'

'It's a wild ride across the cosmos to places where everything you think you know is challenged?where space and time, even reality, are stranger than fiction,' said Janna Levin.

Also in the special, Janna shows how bigger and ever more powerful instruments are leading to extraordinary breakthroughs in black hole research, such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Experiment. On September 14, 2015, after four decades of development, LIGO's enormous twin interferometers finally detected the existence of elusive, long-sought gravitational waves, produced by the collision of two black holes some 1.3 billion years ago. That detection not only confirmed the existence of black holes, but is the first direct evidence that black holes can merge?a possible explanation for how supermassive black holes?millions or BILLIONS of times the mass of the sun?are able to grow so large. It is one of the most significant finds of this century. NOVA meets extensively with two of the principal scientists?experimental physicist Rainer Weiss and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne?who, along with former LIGO Director Barry Barish, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in October 2017 for their contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.

NOVA meets several prominent astronomers and astrophysicists in the field who are contributing to the acceleration of black hole research, including UCLA's Andrea Ghez, one of the key discoverers of a supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, and Yale's Priyamvada Natarajan, a leading expert on the mystery of black holes and early cosmic evolution. A long trail of evidence, including observations by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, has pointed to the probable existence of supermassives in nearly every galaxy. NOVA follows Ghez and Natarajan as they explore questions about the role of supermassives in the early universe, and search for answers about how they got so big?answers that could provide an understanding of how all galaxies, including our own Milky Way, formed after the Big Bang.

NOVA also interviews University of Cambridge astronomer Paul Murdin, who is the co-discoverer of the first confirmed black hole, called 'Cygnus X-1,' and follows the Event Horizon Telescope, a new project led by Harvard's Shep Doeleman, in which a group of scientists is attempting the seemingly insurmountable feat of taking a picture of a black hole. The goal is to see the unseeable and bring into focus the supermassive at the center of our Milky Way by using a global network of radio telescopes to photograph the black hole's shadow, or silhouette?a technique that team members like University of Arizona astrophysicist Feryal Ozel are hoping will produce an image like a donut with a well-defined hole.

Viewers also hear from renowned experts such as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at American Museum of Natural History, who tells us what happens if you fall into a black hole. Black Hole Apocalypse also features Harvard's Peter Galison; James Guillochon and Nia Imara, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; MIT's Marcia Bartusiak; Eilat Glikman, of Middlebury College, and Tod Lauer, astronomer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Arizona. These leading scientists, and more, provide keen insights on black holes and the formation and evolution of galaxies?and share high hopes for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope as a powerful new technology that could solve some of the mysteries around black holes and give us a much deeper understanding of the very early universe.

A visually spectacular and accessible guide to many mysteries of black holes, the documentary offers a provocative look at how their extreme properties make them a crucial 'lab' for testing our most important theories about how our universe works and how it evolved.

For those who would like to explore the content further and do some "experimenting," NOVA will release a new version of its popular "NOVA Black Holes' iPad app, available for free on iTunes, to coincide with the premiere of Black Hole Apocalypse. Also hosted by Janna Levin, and originally launched in July 2016, the interactive, educational app sends players on a quest through the universe, challenging them to earn a star that's big and bright enough to go supernova and collapse into a black hole.

Tune in to NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse, a one-night, two-hour special, Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 9pm ET/8C on PBS.

Janna Levin is the Claire Tow Professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University, and has contributed to an understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves in the shape of spacetime. Her previous books include How the Universe Got Its Spots and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN/Bingham Prize. She was recently named a Guggenheim Fellow. Her latest book, Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, is the INSIDE STORY on the discovery of the century: the sound of spacetime ringing from the collision of two black holes over a billion years ago. She is also the founding director of sciences at Pioneer Works, a culture center in Brooklyn.

Black Hole Apocalypse is a NOVA production for WGBH Boston. Written, produced and directed by Rushmore DeNooyer. Executive Producer is Julia Cort. Senior Producer for NOVA is Chris Schmidt. Senior Executive Producer for NOVA is Paula S. Apsell.

National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers. Additional funding is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, and the Lynch Foundation.

To explore more online, viewers can tune in to NOVA WHAT THE PHYSICS?!, an exciting new Youtube series featuring short-form videos that investigate deep questions about the nature of our universe and surprising physics phenomena, in a light, comedic tone. Hosted by NOVA Digital Producer Greg Kestin, the series premieres new episodes every other week, covering a variety of physics-related topics from consciousness to black holes to what real parallel universes might be like ... basically, things that make you ask, 'what the physics?!' Greg is also a Theoretical Physicist at Harvard, where he conducts research and teaches. Subscribe at


About NOVA
Now in its 45th season, NOVA is the most-watched primetime Science series on American television, reaching an average of five million viewers weekly. The series remains committed to producing in-depth Science programming in the form of hour-long (and occasionally longer) documentaries, from the latest breakthroughs in technology to the deepest mysteries of the natural world. NOVA is a production of WGBH Boston. NOVA airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET/PT on WGBH Boston and most PBS stations. The Director of the WGBH Science Unit and Senior Executive Producer of NOVA is Paula S. Apsell.

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