Yesterday morning I caught a SXSW press screening of Hubble 3D at the Bob Bullock Museum's IMAX theater. Shot in part on a specially designed, 700-pound, space-ready IMAX 3D camera, the movie tells the telescope's life story, from construction and launch 20 years ago through the five subsequent servicing missions.

The primary focus of the film is the Space Shuttle Atlantis' May 2009 repair mission, the last-scheduled trip of its kind. Although not mentioned during the movie, one of the things the Atlantis crew installed on the Hubble was a device that will eventually cause it to de-orbit, making way for its successor, the James Webb Telescope.

And although the Atlantis crew's story is compelling, what really makes Hubble 3D worth seeing is its lengthy space-exploration sequence. Using detailed composite images taken by the Hubble, director Toni Myers leads us on a stunning journey from our solar system to the edge of the known universe. One moment we're viewing Orion's belt as we see it from Earth, the next we're zooming towards it at thousands of light years per second. We see galaxies being born, we see galaxies in the throes of death, and we fly right through the middle of a black hole in the Virgo Cluster, more than 2.5 million light years from Earth. There was was a SXSW panel today warning about the dangers of hyperbole in online film criticism, but I can honestly say that watching this movie in true IMAX 3D was an experience unlike any I've had before.

But fair warning: be prepared to feel more than a little frustrated by the time Hubble 3D ends. The Hubble telescope has allowed us to view countless new galaxies, and I want to visit them all. Right now. Unfortunately, I'll be dead and gone long before we discover and catalog (much less visit) more than the tiniest fraction of our universe. Unless we invent teleportation. I'm still holding out for that.

Hubble 3D
is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and is rated G. It will play select IMAX theaters beginning March 19.
tags sxsw10
categories Reviews, Sci-Fi