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Arts & Culture

NOVA: At The Edge Of Space

Aurora seen from the ISS, from NASA time-lapse footage.
Courtesy of NASA
Aurora seen from the ISS, from NASA time-lapse footage.

Airs Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Between the blue sky above us and the infinite blackness of space lies a frontier full of enigmas that scientists have only just begun to investigate. NOVA “At the Edge of Space” takes viewers on a spectacular exploration to probe the earth-space boundary zone, home to some of nature’s most puzzling and alluring phenomena: the shimmering aurora, streaking meteors, and fleeting flashes that shoot upwards from thunderclouds, known as sprites.

Discovered in 1989, sprites have eluded capture because they flicker into existence for a mere split-second — 40 times faster than an eye blink. NOVA rides with scientists in a high-flying weather observation plane as they hunt for sprites and finally succeed in snaring them in 3D video, gaining vital clues to unravel their mystery. NOVA “At the Edge of Space” also combines advanced video technology with stunning sequences shot from the International Space Station.

Past episodes of NOVA are available for online viewing. NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.