Hubble 3D IMAX movie
What a great IMAX movie. Thursday I visited Chicago’s Navy Pier to take some photographs and attend a screening of the latest IMAX movie – Hubble 3D. I had a number of free passes so I and several friends from the National Space Society met up to see the movie.
According to the theater Shuttle astronaut John Grunsfeld, who was in the movie and was one of the astronauts on the last Hubble servicing mission, was supposed to be there. However there was no John Grunsfeld. I never did ask anyone from the theater what happened.
As to the movie, the main themes were the training for the Hubble servicing mission, the actual servicing mission itself, and simulated 3D views of some of Hubble’s better known observations. The blend of shuttle launches, astronaut training, the Hubble servicing missions, and the simulated trips through the Orion Nebula and M87 kept the movie well paced.
The 3D, which relies on polarized light rather than the red/blue anaglyph, really made the movie spectacular. When the astronauts were in the Space Shuttle’s payload bay servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, it was like being there with them. One particularly effective shot was a close in view of astronaut Megan McArthur suited up prior to boarding the Space Shuttle for the STS-125 mission. She was seated and it was like she was seated only a few feet in front of me. I felt like I could reach out and give her a high-five. Megan was a mission specialist on STS-125, the 5th and final Hubble servicing mission, and worked the remote manipulator system (RMS) used to grab the Hubble Space Telescope and bring it into the Shuttle’s payload bay.
The Orion Nebula is arguably the best known and most photographed astronomical feature. Astronomically, the highlight of the movie was the simulated trip to and through the Orion Nebula, which is a stellar nursery. I’ve had an interest in the Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42 or M42, for a long time and have in the past considered putting together a presentation on the subject. If you want to know a lot more about the Orion Nebula, I recommend the book The Orion Nebula: Where Stars Are Born.
There were some slow moments during the show that relied on non-3d visuals. These were primarily news reports associated with Hubble’s initial optical problems (recall that the primary mirror was ground a fraction of the width of a human hair out of shape).
I would have liked to have seen more of the movie devoted to astronomy. There were some beautiful 3D stills, like that of the Helix Nebula, and the simulated trip to the galaxy known as M87, a giant elliptical galaxy with a super massive black hole at its center. And there was more – just not enough for me.
If you are at all interested in space exploration or astronomy, then this is a movie you’ll enjoy. The 3D views are amazing and the script provides a great educational opportunity. And did I mention that the 3D views are amazing.
After the movie we headed to Bubba Gump’s for food and drink. Bubba Gump’s wasn’t our first choice but other than Harry Caray’s, it was the only place still open. For the next hour and a half we talked some about the movie but mostly about the National Space Society and the upcoming International Space Development Conference (ISDC) – which all of us have an involvement in. For my part, I am the ISDC webmaster and am the point of contact for the Call for Papers. The ISDC is being held in Chicago this year over Memorial Day weekend and is the best space exploration conference for the general public. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and many other space luminaries, will be attending. For more about the ISDC, check out the International Space Development Conference web site.
The Hubble 3D IMAX Web Site
The IMAX folks have a web site for the Hubble 3D movie. There is background about the shuttle missions, the astronauts, and a few movie wallpapers available. Be forewarned – the web site is heavy. If you don’t have a high speed internet connection the site will take some time to load. And if you don’t have a newer computer – well let’s just say that the site will put a strain on your browser. So for more about the movie, visit www.imax.com/hubble/.