After an introduction by Ann Druyan, including the benefits of the end of the Cold War, Carl Sagan opens the program with a description of the cosmos and a "Spaceship of the Imagination" (shaped like a dandelion seed). The ship journeys through the universes' hundred billion galaxies, the Local Group, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way, the Orion Nebula, our Solar System, and finally the planet Earth. Eratosthenes' successful calculation of the circumference of Earth leads to a description of the ancient Library of Alexandria. Finally, the "Ages of Science" are described, before pulling back to the full span of the Cosmic Calendar.
Sagan discusses the story of the Heike crab and artificial selection of crabs resembling samurai warriors, as an opening into a larger discussion of evolution through natural selection (and the pitfalls of intelligent design). Among the topics are the development of life on the Cosmic Calendar and the Cambrian explosion; the function of DNA in growth; genetic replication, repairs, and mutation; the common biochemistry of terrestrial organisms; the creation of the molecules of life in the Miller-Urey experiment; and speculation on alien life (such as life in Jupiter's clouds). In the Cosmos Update ten years later, Sagan remarks on RNA also controlling chemical reactions and reproducing itself and the different roles of comets (potentially carrying organic molecules or causing the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event).
Episode 3: Harmony of the Worlds
Original Air Date: October 12, 1980
Beginning with the separation of the fuzzy thinking and pious fraud of astrology from the careful observations of astronomy, Sagan follows the development of astronomical observation. Beginning with constellations and ceremonial calendars (such as those of the Anasazi), the story moves to the debate between Earth and Sun-centered models: Ptolemy and the geocentric worldview, Copernicus' theory, the data-gathering of Tycho Brahe, and the achievements of Johannes Kepler (Kepler's laws of planetary motion and the first science-fiction novel).
Episode 4: Heaven and Hell
Original Air Date: October 19, 1980
Sagan discusses comets and asteroids as planetary impactors, giving recent examples of the Tunguska event and a lunar impact described by Canterbury monks in 1178. It moves to a description of the environment of Venus, from the previous fantastic theories of people such as Immanuel Velikovsky to the information gained by the Venera landers and its implications for Earth's greenhouse effect. The Cosmos Update highlights the connection to global warming.
Episode 5: Blues for a Red Planet
Original Air Date: October 26, 1980
The episode, devoted to the planet Mars, begins with scientific and fictional speculation about the Red Planet during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, Edgar Rice Burroughs' science fiction books, and Percival Lowell's false vision of canals on Mars). It then moves to Robert Goddard's early experiments in rocket-building, inspired by reading science fiction, and the work by Mars probes, including the Viking, searching for life on Mars. The episode ends with the possibility of the terraforming and colonization of Mars and a Cosmos Update on the relevance of Mars' environment to Earth's and the possibility of a manned mission to Mars.
Episode 6: Travellers’ Tales (Travelers' Tales)
Original Air Date: November 2, 1980
The journeys of the Voyager probes is put in the context of the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, with a centuries-long tradition of sailing ship explorers, and its contemporary thinks (such as Constantijn Huygens and his son Christian). Their discoveries are compared to the Voyager probes' discoveries among the Jovian and Saturn systems. In Cosmos Update, image processing reconstructs Voyager’s worlds and Voyager’s last portrait of the Solar System as it leaves is shown.
Episode 7: The Backbone of Night
Original Air Date: November 9, 1980
Carl Sagan teaches students in a classroom in his childhood home in Brooklyn, New York, which leads into a history of the different mythologies about stars and the gradual revelation of their true nature. In ancient Greece, some philosophers (Aristarchus of Samos, Thales of Miletus, Anaximander, Theodorus of Samos, Empedocles, Democritus) freely pursue scientific knowledge, while others (Plato, Aristotle, and the Pythagoreans) advocate slavery and epistemic secrecy.
Episode 8: Journeys in Space and Time
(Travels in Space and Time)
Original Air Date: November 16, 1980
Ideas about time and space are explored in the changes that constellations undergo over time, the redshift and blue shift measured in interstellar objects, time dilation in Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, the designs of both Leonardo da Vinci and spacecraft that could travel near light speed, time travel and its hypothetical effects on human history, the origins of the Solar System, the history of life, and the immensity of space. In Cosmos Update, the idea of faster-than-light travel by wormholes (researched by Kip Thorne and shown in Sagan’s novel Contact) is discussed.
Episode 9: The Lives of the Stars
Original Air Date: November 23, 1980
The simple act of making an apple pie is extrapolated into the atoms and subatomic particles (electrons, protons, and neutrons) necessary. Many of the ingredients necessary are formed of chemical elements formed in the life and deaths of stars (such as our own Sun), resulting in massive red giants and supernovae or collapsing into white dwarfs, neutron stars, pulsars, and even black holes. These produce all sorts of phenomena, such as radioactivity, cosmic rays, and even the curving of spacetime by gravity. Cosmos Update mentions the supernova SN 1987A and neutrino astronomy.
Episode 10: The Edge of Forever
Original Air Date: November 30, 1980
Beginning with the origins of the universe in the Big Bang, Sagan describes the formation of different types of galaxies and anomalies such as galactic collisions and quasars. The episodes moves further into ideas about the structure of the Universe, such as different dimensions (in the imaginary Flatland and four-dimensional hypercubes), an infinite vs. a finite universe, and the idea of an oscillating Universe (similar to that in Hindu cosmology). The search into other ideas such as dark matter and the multiverse is shown, using tools such as the Very Large Array in New Mexico. Cosmos Update shows new information about the odd, irregular surfaces of galaxies and the Milky Way perhaps being a barred spiral galaxy.
The idea of intelligence is explored in the concepts of computers (using bits as their basic units of information), whales (in their songs and their disruptions by human activities), DNA, the human brain (the evolution of the brain stem, frontal lobes, neurons, cerebral hemispheres, and corpus callosum under the Triune Brain Model), and man-made structures for collective intelligence (cities, libraries, books, computers, and satellites). The episode ends with speculation on alien intelligence and the information conveyed on the Voyager Golden Record.
Episode 12: Encyclopaedia Galactica
Original Air Date: December 14, 1980
Questions are raised about the search for intelligent life beyond the Earth, with UFOs and other close encounters refuted in favor of communications through SETI and radio telescope such as the Arecibo Observatory. The probability of technically advanced civilizations existing elsewhere in the Milky Way is interpreted using the Drake equation and a future hypothetical Encyclopedia Galactica is discussed as a repository of information about other worlds in the galaxy. The Cosmos Update notes that there have been fewer sightings of UFOs and more stories of abductions, while mentioning the META scanning the skies for signals.
Episode 13: Who Speaks for Earth?
Original Air Date: December 21, 1980
Sagan reflects on the future of humanity and the question of "who speaks for Earth?" when meeting extraterrestrials. He discusses the very different meetings of the Tlingit people and explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse with the destruction of the Aztecs by Spanish conquistadors, the looming threat of nuclear warfare, and the threats shown by destruction of the Library of Alexandria and the murder of Hypatia. The episode ends with a overview of the beginning of the universe, the evolution of life, and the accomplishments of humanity and makes a plea to for mankind to cherish life and continue its journey in the cosmos. The Cosmos Update notes the preliminary reconnaissance of planets with spacecraft, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid in South Africa, and measures towards the reduction of nuclear weapons.
Carl Sagan CNN Interview
A Dialogue Sagan-Turner:
A Conversation with Carl Sagan & Ted Turner
VHS Release Date: November 1, 1989
Some versions of the series, including the first North American home video VHS release (though not the DVD release), included a specially-made fourteenth episode, which consisted of an hour-long interview between Sagan and Ted Turner, in which the two discussed the series and new discoveries made in the years since its first broadcast.
Cosmos Special Edition (1986)
The 1986 special edition of Cosmos featured new computer animated sequences as well as new narration and filmed segments with Sagan (including content from Sagan's book Comet and discussion of his theory of nuclear winter, none of which was used in subsequent television or home video releases). Premiering as one marathon program on the TBS network (and later broadcast in the United States, Japan, Germany, Australia, Singapore, and Argentina), the series is much shorter than the original, at four and a half hours, and was cut into six 45-minute episodes:
(Part 1 & Part 2)
Children of the Stars
(Part 1 & Part 2)
Message from the Sky
(Part 1 & Part 2)
This version of Cosmos contains a mix of music used in the original series, with a unique composed specially by Vangelis for this series. The score is often referred to as Comet, with "Comet 16" acting as the title and ending theme of each episode ("Comet 16" is the only one of the total 21 cues that has officially been released, though some of the new music appears in the 2000 remastered DVD release).
1994 Carl Sagan Book
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space is a non-fiction book by Carl Sagan. It is the sequel to Cosmos: A Personal Voyage and was inspired by the "Pale Blue Dot" photograph, for which Sagan provides a sobering description. In this book, Sagan mixes philosophy about the human place in the universe with a description of the current knowledge about the Solar System. He also details a human vision for the future.
The first part of the book looks at the claims made throughout history that Earth and the human species are unique. Sagan makes two claims for the persistence of the idea of a geocentric, or Earth-centered universe: human pride in our existence, and the threat of torturing those who dissented from it, particularly during the time of the Roman Inquisition. However, he also admits that the scientific tools to prove the Earth orbited the Sun were (until the last few hundred years) not accurate enough to measure effects such as parallax, making it difficult for astronomers to prove that the geocentric theory was false.
After saying that we have gained humility from understanding that we are not, literally, the center of the universe, Sagan embarks on an exploration of the entire solar system. He begins with an account of the Voyager program, in which Sagan was a participating scientist. He describes the difficulty of working with the low light levels at distant planets, and the mechanical and computer problems which beset the twin spacecraft as they aged, and which could not always be diagnosed and fixed remotely. Sagan then examines each one of the major planets, as well as some of the moons - including Titan, Triton, and Miranda - focusing on whether life is possible at the frontiers of the solar system.
Sagan argues that studying other planets provides context for understanding the Earth—and protecting humanity's only home planet from environmental catastrophe. He believes that NASA's decision to cut back exploration of the Moon after the Apollo program was a short-sighted decision, despite the expense and the failing popularity of the program among the United States public. Sagan says future exploration of space should focus on ways to protect Earth and to extend human habitation beyond it. The book was published the year after the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter, an event Sagan uses to highlight the danger Earth faces from the occasional asteroid or comet large enough to cause substantial damage if it were to hit Earth. He says we need the political will to track large extraterrestrial objects, or we risk losing everything. Sagan argues that in order to save the human race, space colonization and terraforming should be utilized.
Later in the book, Sagan's wife, Ann Druyan, challenges readers to pick one of the other planetary dots photographed and featured in the book, and imagine that there are inhabitants on that world who believe that the universe was created solely for themselves. She shared Sagan's belief that humans are not as important as they think they are.
The first edition of the book includes an extensive list of illustrations and photographs, mostly provided by NASA. Other editions reference various figures which are not included.
Cosmos: Season II (1994)
Episode 1: Pale Blue Dot (1994)
The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles) from Earth, as part of the solar system Family Portrait series of images. In the photograph, Earth is shown as a tiny dot (0.12 pixel in size) against the vastness of space. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System, was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space, at the request of Carl Sagan.
Subsequently, the title of the photograph was used by Sagan as the main title of his 1994 book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.
Cosmos Audio CD (1994)
In 1994, RCA Records reissued the original soundtrack compilation on compact disc and, in 2002, reissued it on its Collectables label (RCA 07863 54003-2 USA; Collectables COL-CD-6293 USA). In 2002, a special two-disc "collector's edition" of music from the series was released to coincide with the DVD reissue, containing complete versions of many of the songs from series only available as snippets on previous releases.
Cosmos 2: The Sequel!! (2013-2014)
On August 5, 2011, plans were announced for a sequel to the series, bringing up-to-date special effects and scientific discoveries to the themes and messages of the original series. The new series, referred to as Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, is slated to air on Fox sometime between Fall 2013 to Spring 2014. It is to be hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and will be produced by Ann Druyan, popular science broadcaster and author, and Sagan's widow, along with Steven Soter, and Seth MacFarlane.