At The Edge Of Space Is 2014’s First Great Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

At The Edge of Space is the first really enjoyable documentary of 2014.  This episode of PBS’ hit science based series NOVA is the prime example of what makes the series such a hit even after so many years.  This episode is so enjoyable first and foremost because it is one that connects to more than just one audience.  It will impress both lovers of science in general and of the meteorological sciences.  Its ability to connect to more than just one audience base is the foundation of this documentary’s enjoyment.  The visuals used throughout the near hour-long program add even more enjoyment to the whole thing.  Rounding out the episode’s positives, none of the concepts discussed throughout the program are over the heads of viewers.  The visuals used throughout the program play a part in that ease of understanding, too. That ease of understanding, the visuals, and the fact that it can so easily reach more than just one audience group makes At The Edge of Space a complete joy for any science nut and weather nut. It all makes this program the first truly enjoyable documentary of 2014.

The title chosen for At The Edge of Space is somewhat misleading.  This has apparently upset some viewers.  However, it is misleading in a good thing.  That’s because unlike previously released documentaries from PBS, the reality of this program is that it isn’t just another program about space and what goes on right at its edge.  If anything, this episode of NOVA is centered more on the meteorological sciences than on general science.  That in itself is a huge positive to this episode.  It actually reaches multiple audiences.  The main focus on the program is the search for the elusive “sprite” which is created above thunderstorms.  Some have complained that the search for “sprites” is the only focus of the program.  Given, it does take up much of the program.  However, as audiences will notice in giving the program its full time, that search is just one of many.  As one scientist notes late in the program, it’s only one of so many phenomenon that take place near the edge of space.  There are “blue jets” and all kinds of other phenomenon that go on in Earth’s upper atmosphere, including the awe inspiring aurora borealis.  Yes, even that is discussed.  And by direct connection, the sun’s impact on the aurora borealis is also discussed.  There is even discussion on how all of these occurrences reflect the overall health of the earth.

It goes without saying that despite the view of some, this episode of NOVA covers a lot of ground.  In the process, it sets the groundwork for potentially other episodes, too.  It even does all this without getting bogged down in itself.  This is a side note of course.  But it is just as important a factor as anything else.  That’s because of the fact that there is so much information compressed into this one episode.  It goes to show the continued tradition of professionalism established early on by those behind the series.  For that reason, it is made even more enjoyable and useful both in the classroom and the living room.

The immaculate organization of the information contained in At The Edge of Space and the fact that it can reach multiple audiences are obviously important to the overall success and enjoyment of this episode of NOVA.  The visuals used throughout the program are equally important to that level of success.  Audiences actually get to ride along with the scientists that go out in search of the elusive “sprites” that explode from the tops of massive thunderstorm systems.  To actually see these bursts of electrical energy first hand is incredible.  Those behind the program make it easier to understand how “sprites” form through the use of computer generated graphics.  It really helps in the discussion of how this bizarre form of lightning comes to life so to speak.  Some will be truly surprised to see that even above the cloud level, this form of lightning doesn’t form necessarily from the clouds themselves.  Rather, they form between clouds and the upper atmosphere because of electrical charges sent up from the clouds in a channel of sorts.  Viewers see this first hand thanks to high speed footage shot through the search for “sprites.”  It’s just one more of so many visual aids that enhance the viewing experience of At The Edge Of Space.

The visuals incorporated into At The Edge of Space are massively important to the overall viewing experience of the program.  They are another part of the impressive amount of information compiled for this episode of NOVA. And their ability to make the concepts discussed easier to understand makes them all the more important.  Speaking of that ease of understanding, the visuals aren’t all that make the topics easy to understand throughout this episode. The topics themselves are discussed at a level that the average viewer can understand.  Some episodes of NOVA admittedly present information that might be above some viewers’ heads.  That isn’t the case with this episode.  Everything presented within this episode is easy to understand for even the most casual viewer.  Whether it be how “sprites” and the aurora borealis form or even how the earth’s own atmosphere plays a role in each one, it is all easy enough to understand.  Add in the program’s meticulous organization and the visual aids, and audiences get an episode of NOVA that is one of its best of the year and a program that is the first truly enjoyable documentary of the year, too. It will be available, Tuesday, February 25th.  It can be pre-ordered via PBS’ online store at  More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

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