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15 Of The Best Astronomy Documentaries You Have To See

Learning about our solar system and outer space beyond has never been easier. Whereas books and lectures used to be the only way, visual documentaries have been a learning source for everyday people for years now.

There are lots of documentaries available across a variety of streaming services, making the content easily digestible on a whim. 

This list is going to break down the 15 best astronomy documentaries that have a vast amount of interesting facts and visuals to offer.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey 

A 13-part documentary that’s riddle with amazing information delivered by the one and only Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey offers stunning visuals and a form of education that takes viewers on a journey.

With every episode, you learn more about the depth and wonder the universe has to offer, and it shines a light on how little we actually understand as a whole.

The documentary highlights how we grew to understand the laws of nature in addition to our place in the universe through space and time.

From old, current, and future events, it gives viewers a glimpse at what the universe holds for our existence and the celestial happenings that are out there among the stars.

It also does a great job of simplifying complex concepts for people to understand and take with them for a lifetime.

Where To Watch

Nova: The Planets

Featuring five different episodes that explore a timeline of billions of years, The Planets documentary sheds light on our solar system and the history of the numerous planets within it.

From planet rings to amazing facts about various geographical features, you get a look at an extensive history of how our solar system came to be, along with the formation of its planets.

The special effects throughout each episode are not only vivid, but they offer a detailed representation of what the planets looked like over time.

You’ll also get to see stunning footage from the landers, rovers, and orbiters that we’ve launched into space which have captured a close-up look that many of us may never see in person for ourselves.

The docu-series primarily focuses on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, rocky planets, and the icy nature of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

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Alien Worlds

One of the most detailed documentaries on this list, Alien Worlds, blends fact and fiction to dive into what could be possible throughout our universe.

It takes what we already know and uses CGI to display the possibilities that could await us on distant worlds.

The multi-part docufiction leaves you questioning the reality we know here on Earth from unique wildlife, ecosystems, and celestial objects that can be hard to fathom from imagination alone.

It comes with four different episodes, each diving into a variety of concepts about exoplanets, binary star systems, the potential of alien civilizations, and more.

Each episode is awe-inspiring, to say the least, and it offers a unique take on education about the universe, as there’s plenty we have yet to actually discover.

Where To Watch

The Mars Generation

Diving into NASA’s past, present, and future, this documentary features renowned figures such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Michio Kaku, all of which provide their unique expertise.

The documentary takes a comprehensive approach to NASA’s existence and the organization’s future endeavors to take humanity into the stars.

Viewers will also hear from members at NASA’s Space Camp who all share the drive to hopefully make it to Mars someday.

It’s an inspirational story that shows what’s truly possible in the near future and what it will require from the best and brightest to make a mission to Mars a success.

NASA has proven more than once that they’re capable of achieving amazing feats.

Throughout this documentary, you’ll get a brief look at how they plan to expand humanity’s reach throughout the universe and how future generations play such a vital role along the way.

Where To Watch

The Last Man on the Moon

A story about famed astronaut Gene Cernan, The Last Man on the Moon tells more than just his story about his time on the moon.

It also dives into many aspects of his personal life and how his experience in outer space changed his life forever.

With many highlights of his career, you get to see his time as a naval aviator through a decent amount of archival footage.

You also get a first-person take from Gene himself, and the way he tells his story is beyond nostalgic.

The documentary also comes with a beautiful soundtrack that matches his powerful life story and the significance of his final step off the Moon in December of 1972.

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Death Dive to Saturn

Another featured documentary from the PBS Nova series, Death Dive to Saturn tells the story of the Cassini orbiter that has offered an immense amount of information about the ringed planet.

The NASA mission that launched Cassini occurred back in 1997, and it didn’t reach Saturn until 2004, which goes to show how immense the journey to Saturn actually is.

The orbiter has delivered amazing images and scientific data that has furthered our understanding of Saturn, its rings, and the 62 moons that surround it.

Cassini remained about 2,000 miles above Saturn’s highest clouds, and the data it provided was paramount for us to be able to understand the many wonders the planet has to offer.

It also shows Cassini’s many challenges over the years, as a collision with any substantial debris could’ve been catastrophic for the future of the mission.

Where To Watch

Fight For Space

It’s very evident that space has a lot to offer humanity, and although we’re accustomed to what Earth can provide, the universe has many more benefits we have yet to discover. In Fight For Space, the documentary delves into cultural and economic benefits that could come from exploring our universe.

Humanity may have come a long way with space exploration, but we have much farther to go.

We’ve used technology to reach distances humans can’t achieve on their own, but this still leaves many aspects of outer space open to discussion.

NASA garners the eyes of the world as they’ve uncovered many amazing discoveries over the years, but they come with their own struggles, one of which is consistent and substantial funding.

In the documentary, you’ll also learn why it’s so vital to have a growing and expanding space program for the benefit of the entire world.

Where To Watch

Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking

The late and great Stephen Hawking may not be with us anymore, but he left behind an immense amount of knowledge for current and future generations to absorb. Into The Universe is a three-part documentary that focuses on the potential for alien life, time travel, and how the universe began.

Each episode is stacked with stunning visuals and detailed explanations that are easily digestible and offer a good blend of wonder and invaluable information.

Viewers will learn about the possibility of alien lifeforms existing, in addition to their intelligence, and why it’s plausible that we’re not alone in this universe.

In episode two, Stephen explores how time travel could become a reality and the technology that may be required to get there.

To wrap up the documentary, episode three gives an overview of how the universe was created and how new celestial objects are created as we speak.

Where To Watch

IMAX: Hubble

Focusing on numerous celestial wonders in the universe, Hubble is a documentary that dives into Saturn’s aurora, the Pillars of Creation, Helix Nebula, Butterfly Nebula, and the Andromeda Galaxy.

It also follows seven astronauts that are aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis as they travel to the Hubble telescope to make necessary repairs.

Leonardo DiCaprio narrates the documentary, showing the importance of NASA’s endeavors and how essential Hubble was to advancing our understanding of the universe.

Viewers will get an up-close look at five different riveting spacewalks, each more amazing and nervewracking than the next.

It also shows viewers the many dangers that are possible in outer space, as the astronauts encounter a critical issue that could have potentially jeopardized the success of their mission.

Where To Watch

1Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo

Behind any space mission is a team of experts that ensure our astronauts are prepared and safe along the way. This documentary highlights the many experts that make up mission control back on Earth as they guide our astronauts to new discoveries and ensure their safe return home.

Viewers have the chance to see what their daily life was like at NASA, where they come from, and how they created such an impeccable team.

The documentary offers many interviews from those who were hands-on during the Apollo mission and a vast amount of archival footage that had never been seen before.

Released in 2017, this documentary will easily go down as an excellent source of historical material about our endeavors with Apollo, NASA, and outer space as a whole.

Where To Watch

Last Exit: Space

If you’ve ever wondered what humanity would need to colonize other planets, this documentary explores the topic in varying detail. Last Exit: Space covers what it could require to colonize other planets and what we would need to survive outside of Earth.

With many resources becoming increasingly scarce on Earth, many experts are looking to the stars in hopes resources may be found elsewhere, in addition to new discoveries that could benefit humanity in the long run.

With an ever-growing population here on Earth, managing everything we need to survive is challenging enough as it is. Even if we aren’t fully prepared to move to other planets, it’s essential that we at least consider the possibility.

The documentary dives into the fact that there are over 100 billion known planets in the Milky Way, and it’s safe to assume that Earth isn’t the only habitable solution.

Where To Watch

Return To Space

One of the more recent space documentaries, Return To Space focuses on the efforts of Elon Musk and his SpaceX program.

The main endeavor of this documentary sheds light on returning astronauts to the International Space Station and the beneficial collaboration between SpaceX and NASA.

Viewers get a thorough understanding of what SpaceX engineers go through to make this feat a reality. Including two decades of devoted work ethic that have made SpaceX what it is today.

You’ll also get a look at the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, which are crafted from revolutionary technology, along with details of various launches in recent years.

Over time, SpaceX has shown what they’re capable of, and NASA understands their working relationship can easily lead to new accomplishments and discoveries faster than we expected.

The documentary gives plenty of face time to Elon Musk, astronauts such as Bob Behnken, and many skilled engineers at SpaceX.

Where To Watch

First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8

One of the first events that propelled humanity into the stars was when NASA sent three astronauts to the moon in 1968. First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8 is a documentary that dives into riveting details about the mission and how it was an important catalyst in future space exploration.

Although many people back on Earth were going through many challenges with civil rights, the Vietnam War, and many other events, the mission to the moon brought many people together, even if it was just for a moment.

The Apollo 8 mission was manned by Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell.

Viewers get insight into each of their lives and how their bravery and expertise shaped the future of space missions as a whole.

With archival footage and audio, the documentary offers plenty of content that you may not be able to find anywhere else.

Where To Watch

The Farthest – Voyager in Space

In this documentary, you’ll learn all about what it took to achieve NASA’s Voyager space mission, in addition to the newfound discoveries and data that was collected by the twin spacecraft.

The Farthest offers an amazing visual experience as it shows what Voyager went through while passing by planets such as Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, and many other celestial objects along the way.

Voyager was created to go as far as it possibly could with no intention of ever returning home. The spacecraft also contains images, greetings, and even music from Earth that may one day be discovered by another lifeform.

It left our solar system back in 2012 and has traveled farther than any other spacecraft that came before it. 

Where To Watch

Journey to the Edge of the Universe

Created by National Geographic, Journey to the Edge of the Universe is a CGI-driven experience that breaks down what a long-distance voyage through the universe could look like.

The documentary accomplishes this with the help of CGI, images from the Hubble telescope, and an array of data that humanity has collected throughout the years.

Not only is the film riddled with visual wonders, but you’ll take in a vast amount of knowledge that some may consider to be rather intense.

From our solar system to celestial objects we may never be able to reach on our own, the technology used to create this documentary offers an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Viewers are provided an in-depth look at our solar system, nebulae, numerous galaxies, our nearest stars, and what we may find at the edge of the universe.

Where To Watch

Other great ways to learn about astronomy: