aired on March 6, 2001
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aired on April 3, 2001
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Black Holes--they used to be the stuff of science fiction. An early Star Trek episode referred to "dark stars." Then, in 1967, quantum theorist John Wheeler coined a term which caught the publicís imagination: "black holes"--places where gravity is so extreme that not even light can escape. And in the past decade, they've moved from fiction and theory into proven fact.

We've now demonstrated the existence of black holes a few times the mass of our Sun in our own Galaxy, using an equation so simple it fits on the back of an envelope and uses only middle school math. We now know that supermassive black holes, more than 2 1/2 million times the mass of our Sun, sit at the center of galaxies like the Milky Way, and perhaps every galaxy with a spherical bulge! In 2000 came the discovery of mid-size black holes, what some astronomers call the "missing link" which may help us better understand the birth, life cycle and death of all stars. Astronomers now think black holes power gamma ray bursts, quasars and vast jets of matter and energy streaming out of active galaxies--some of the most violent and hitherto mysterious phenomena in the entire Universe. Black holes can't be seen in visible light, but they appear to be everywhere. Their study illuminates (sic) and enlivens the study of light and optics, gravity, the electromagnetic spectrum, the nature of the stars and the origin of the elements.

Now, as part of its new PASSPORT TO THE UNIVERSE Module, P2K offers 2 hour-long video programs and companion online resources, inviting students, teachers and the interested public to explore black holes and the origin, structure and evolution of the Universe while interacting, via the Web, with some of America's leading astronomers. Broadcast by participating public television stations and NASA-TV (subject to last minute Shuttle and Space Station events), and free to all schools and educational networks, the programs embody P2K's vision of 21st century science education:

"Real Science, Real Scientists, Real Locations, Real Learning."

PASSPORT TO THE UNIVERSE and the two LIVE FROM specials are made possible, in part, by support from NASA's Office of Space Science and the NASA Education Division, and through special cooperation with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the "Structure and Evolution of the Universe" Education Forum. P2K also thanks NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Fermilab and the "Connections" project (Department of Energy-NASA-NSF), the Space Telescope Science Institute (NASA-ESA), and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.