Judge Dawn Hunt wonders how Invisible Universe Revealed ties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Invisible Universe Revealed is a bit more complex a title than is needed to market the relatively simple story contained within. An episode of PBS’ decades-old educational series NOVA, this is the history of the Hubble space telescope. Produced in honor of the 25th anniversary of the telescope’s launch the story is filled with interviews, mainly, along with archival footage, some CGI graphics and photographs which help tell the tale. It’s an interesting bit of history for space buffs in particular. The focus is on learning what the impact of the launch has been as well as the advancements in the technology which allowed it to be created in the first place.

The episode begins with a history of the Hubble space telescope beginning from its genesis, providing us some insights into the team which was created to headline the project as well as some background about Edwin Hubble himself, the 20th century astronomer and telescope’s namesake. Then we delve into the part of the story most people remember most clearly, the initial failure of the telescope. We go back to discover what was at the root of the problem as well as how it was ultimately handled. Then once we get the drama of the story out of the way it’s time to reveal just what Hubble has contributed to science, and it’s here the documentary shines. The pictures Hubble are able to send back to Earth are truly some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Our understanding of the universe expanded by leaps and bounds once Hubble began transmitting data. A few of the questions Hubble was able to help scientists answer include “How old is the universe?” and “How are galaxies created?”

The documentary ends with discussion about Hubble’s eventual decommission as well as the next phase in interstellar exploration, the James Webb telescope. But it’s doubtful the Webb telescope, though bigger and empirically better than Hubble, will capture the world’s interest in the same way as Hubble, nor is it likely to have the kind of impact Hubble has, with scientific implications which will help reveal more mysteries of the universe for generations still.

This is one disc I wish was produced as a Blu-ray. The images sent back from Hubble are amazing, so crisp and richly detailed I can only imagine how mind-blowing HD would be. However the technical specs do hold up, with the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer providing a video free of distractions. No soft focus, pixilation or other glitches to report. The black levels are consistently dark and the colors are bold when they need to be and muted when they don’t. The audio track doesn’t have a lot of heavy lifting to do but the Dolby Digital 2.0 manages to provide a clean and well-leveled sound space. The transmissions between the space shuttles and Earth are clean and don’t suffer from the distortions I would expect from decades-old audio clips. The interviews are solid as well, meaning overall the technical specs won’t provide any disappointment.

There are no special features.

Invisible Universe Revealed is history, plain and simple. This time in the space program has come to an end with the decommission of the space shuttle program in 2011 so an episode like this helps put the importance of an era now behind us into perspective. I had no idea the Hubble telescope contributed so much to the advancement of scientific knowledge and our understanding of the universe. The photos of other galaxies are breath-taking and the episode overall will satisfy the wannabe astronaut in you or someone you know.

THE VERDICT

It’s a well-paced documentary that achieves its goal of educating the audience about both the history and importance of the Hubble telescope. The verdict is written in invisible ink.

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