Stephen Hawking plays cosmic tour guide traveling the universe in his custom CGI spaceship in the new online program "Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places." We got a sneak peek at the itinerary and put together this selection of quick snapshots of spots across space and time the famed theoretical physicist would most like to visit.
The full half-hour program is available starting Thursday, September 22 on CuriosityStream, a subscription streaming service for science-themed programs.
Click through this gallery for the fastest tour of must-see locales from around the entire scope of existence.
On his journey through space and time on "Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places," Hawking goes back to the beginning of it all to what he calls his "life's obsession": the Big Bang. Hawking muses that if time truly did begin with the Big Bang, nothing could have come before it. Thus, the Big Bang must have caused itself.
Hawking notes that while we tend to associate bright lights and fantastic flashes with explosions, the Big Bang was different. The lights didn't actually come on in the universe until about 380,000 years later. That first fantastic flash is still visible today, 13 billion years later, as what's called the Cosmic Microwave Background. In this image of the microwave sky taken by the Planck spacecraft, it can be seen as the temperature (color) variations near the top and bottom.
Efrain Morales Rivera, Astronomical Society of the Caribbean, PHL @ UPR Arecibo
When it comes to exoplanets, Hawking is most fascinated by Gliese 832c, a super-Earth just 16 light-years away that could be potentially habitable but probably has some pretty extreme seasons. Perhaps we'll one day find it to be the true home of Westeros?
One of Hawking's favorite planets in our solar system is Saturn, and he credits the gravity of our most blinged-out neighbor with helping to keep things in balance in our corner of the galaxy. On "Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places," which starts streaming September 22, he takes his CGI spaceship down for a close look at the gas giant's famed rings.
Hawking points out that Saturn's rings aren't as peaceful as they look, but are more like a 40,000 mile per hour Nascar free-for-all, with constant collisions between pieces of debris and impacts with larger objects like comets creating ripples in the rings themselves.
While visiting Saturn and its rings, Hawking's hypothetical spaceship, the USS Hawking, swings by the moon Enceladus, which has become best known for the plumes shooting water vapor and organic molecules up through its frozen surface from a hidden ocean beneath its icy shell.
It should probably come as no surprise that the only planet in the universe Hawking has actually visited makes his itinerary. Of course Earth is one of Hawking's favorite places, because everything had to be just right for it to form the way it did. He notes that if gravity were just a little less strong, it's likely none of us would be here, including Earth itself.