In “Cosmos,” episode 8, the important contributions of two female astronomers will be featured in “Sisters of the Sun.” Host Neil DeGrasse Tyson will also explore the birth and death of stars in Sunday’s episode.
Fox released three new “Cosmos,” episode 8 previews ahead of Sunday’s new episode. According to Fox’s official synopsis for “Sisters of the Sun,” “Discover the remarkable story of Annie Jump Cannon (guest voice Marlee Matlin) and Cecilia Payne (guest voice Kirsten Dunst), two incredible women who challenged conventional wisdom and uncovered the real-life story of the stars. Cannon led a group of female astronomers in the early 20th century to catalogue the spectral characters of stars, and two decades later, young British beauty Payne joined forces with Cannon to analyze the data and uncover the chemical compositions of the stars. Later, travel on the Ship of the Imagination to explore the lives and deaths of stars and visit the planet of a star orbiting a globular cluster.”
The first “Cosmos” clip, “Pickering’s ‘Computers,” focuses on Annie Jump Cannon, voiced by Matlin, and Edward C. Pickering. Unlike the computers of today, women and men were hired to perform calculations and other scientific tasks. At Harvard, in 1901, Cannon and a group of women were working as Pickering’s computers but Cannon’s contributions include the classification of stars based on temperatures. Pickering’s other computers, Henrietta Swean Leavitt and Antonia Maury, also made great contributions to astronomy. Leavitt discovered a way to measure the distance between Earth and galaxies while Maury’s work with light and wavelengths is used to determine the composition of stars.
“Cosmos” will also profile Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, voiced by Dunst, who earned her Ph.D. from Radcliffe College and continued the legacy of Harvard College Observatory supporting the work of female scientists, along with Cannon, Leavitt and Maury.
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In the next "Cosmos" clip, Tyson looks at Eta Carinae, a star that's a likely hypernova, a higher energy supernova, candidate. According to Tyson, the power of a hypernova explosion "makes a supernova look like a firecracker."
The birth of new stars is the focus of the last "Cosmos" clip. New stars are formed in dense clouds of gas and dust known as stellar nurseries. In the clip, Tyson travels to the Orion Nebula, the closest stellar nursery to Earth.
"Cosmos" episode 8, "Sisters of the Sun," airs on Fox on Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT and on National Geographic on Monday at 10 p.m. EDT.