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NOVA celebrates 50 years of storytelling around scientific progress


Fifty years ago, NOVA filled a gap in broadcast television— delivering entertaining and informative science stories to audiences at a time when there were very few science shows on the air. Produced by GBH and branded as “science adventures for curious grown-ups,” it debuted on March 3, 1974, setting a new standard for science documentary storytelling and becoming one of PBS’s flagship series. The series has announced a celebration featuring an awe-inspiring lineup of new specials, content, and initiatives through the end of 2024.

“Science and technology are so deeply embedded in our lives, the need for accurate and engaging science communication is even greater today than it was 50 years ago,” said NOVA Co-Executive Producer Julia Cort. “We’re proud that NOVA continues to play a crucial role, not only informing the American public about the most important stories in science, but inspiring audiences with profound discoveries about our world and our universe that only science can provide.”

NOVA programming has evolved with the times, particularly thanks to CGI enhancing how we can visualize science from the smallest subatomic particles to the newest explorations of outer space — making possible visually stunning series and films such as “NOVA Universe Revealed,” “Looking for Life on Mars,” “Making North America,” “Polar Extremes,” “Dinosaur Apocalypse,” and many more. The series was also front and center with some of the most challenging issues we’ve faced as a society over the last five decades, including the 1983 film "The Climate Crisis," and the 1985 film "AIDS: Chapter One” which premiered before President Ronald Reagan first mentioned AIDS publicly.

Fifty years since the premiere of its first episode, NOVA continues to be one of PBS’s most popular series — with content reaching more than 55 million people each year on air and across digital platforms — and has been honored with every broadcast industry award, garnering Peabody Awards, Emmy Awards, and duPont-Columbia Awards.

“We all share a fundamental curiosity about ourselves and the world around us,” said NOVA Co-Executive Producer Chris Schmidt. “For half a century NOVA has been striving to satisfy that curiosity. We tell grand detective stories about the inspirational work of scientists who doggedly follow nature’s clues — ultimately adding to humanity’s collective knowledge. People feel uplifted and inspired with each new mystery solved, and it’s this secret sauce of science storytelling that has kept NOVA exciting and relevant for so many seasons.” 

Throughout 2024, NOVA will roll out a series of digital initiatives, content, education and outreach activities, and a robust new slate of programming to celebrate its 50th anniversary. All of these plans will center around key scientific advancements of the past five decades as well as discoveries and issues that are central to our present and future — including artificial intelligence, our relationship to data, the most groundbreaking moments in the history of physics, and the 2024 total solar eclipse.

“At GBH, we are proud to have produced NOVA for 50 years, bringing science stories to national audiences in both an entertaining and educational manner,” said Susan Goldberg, president and CEO for GBH in Boston. “Today, science matters more than ever. We look forward to continuing to bring NOVA to new audiences, on new platforms and inspiring a love of science with these important stories.”

Winter/Spring 2024 NOVA Episodes Premiere Wednesdays at 9pm

February 21 – Hunt for the Oldest DNA

For decades, scientists have tried to unlock the secrets of ancient DNA. But life’s genetic blueprint is incredibly fragile, and researchers have struggled to find DNA in fossils that could survive millions of years. Then, one maverick scientist had the controversial idea to look for DNA not in fossils or frozen ancient tissue — but in dirt. Join the hunt as scientists decipher the oldest DNA ever found, and reveal for the first time the genes of long-extinct creatures that once thrived in a warm, lush Arctic.

March 27 – A.I. Revolution

Can we harness the power of artificial intelligence to solve the world’s most challenging problems without creating an uncontrollable force that ultimately destroys us? ChatGPT and other new A.I. tools can now answer complex questions, write essays, and generate realistic-looking images in a matter of seconds. They can even pass a lawyer’s bar exam. Should we celebrate? Or worry? Or both? Correspondent Miles O’Brien investigates how researchers are trying to transform the world using A.I., hunting for big solutions in fields from medicine to climate change.          

April 3 – Great American Eclipse

Explore the spectacular cosmic phenomenon of a total solar eclipse. In April 2024, the Moon’s shadow is sweeping from Texas to Maine, as the contiguous U.S. witnesses its last total solar eclipse until 2044. This extraordinary astronomical event will plunge locations in the path of totality into darkness for more than four minutes — nearly twice as long as the last American eclipse in 2017. Learn how to watch an eclipse safely and follow scientists as they work to unlock secrets of our Sun — from why its atmosphere is hundreds of times hotter than its surface, to what causes solar storms and how we might one day predict them.

May 15 – Secrets in Your Data

Whether you’re on social media or surfing the web, you’re sharing more personal data than you realize. That can pose a risk to your privacy — even your safety. But at the same time, big data sets could lead to huge advances in health, transportation, climate science, and more. Host Alok Patel leads a quest to understand what happens to all the data we’re shedding and explores the latest efforts to maximize benefits — without compromising personal privacy.

May 22 – Decoding the Universe: Cosmos

How big is the universe? If it began with the Big Bang, will it also have an end? Is there life beyond our planet? Questions like these inspired the launch of Voyager I in 1977 and have driven innovative space research and exploration ever since. Trace the groundbreaking discoveries that have transformed our picture of the universe, from an age when we knew of no planets beyond our solar system, to today, when we have evidence of thousands and estimate trillions more. And follow the teams trying to solve two of the biggest mysteries in cosmology today: What are dark matter and dark energy?

Fall 2024

Programming will be announced in the upcoming months and will include a three-part series on building our world — featuring some of the underlying principles and most innovative projects in engineering — and a five-part sequel to the acclaimed 2019 series “The Planets,” a BBC Studios Production with NOVA and GBH. More information about NOVA’s 50th anniversary celebration will be made available at and by following the hashtag #NOVA50.

NOVA airs Wednesdays at 9pm on WTIU and is available for streaming at, NOVA on YouTube, and the PBS App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast, and VIZIO, as well as on the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries, and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.