To mark the 15 years since the Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, the European Space Agency (ESA) is today hosting "Hubble Days" planetarium shows, releasing a full-color, 120 page anniversary book, distributing an 83-minute original documentary on DVD and selling the film's soundtrack on CD.

The multimedia celebration will reach across Europe before extending to the United States tomorrow.

ESA's gifts for the space telescope's orbital birthday are designed to recognize the Hubble as "one of the biggest scientific projects of all time," as described in the space agency's release, "...that has made an enormous impact both in terms of scientific output and in [the telescope's] immediate public appeal."

The movie

The ESA-produced documentary on DVD, Hubble: 15 Years of Discovery focuses on all aspects of the Space Telescope project, a journey through its history, troubled early life and ultimate scientific successes. The movie, directed by Lars Lindberg Christensen, is said to include large segments of previously unpublished footage.

Narrated by ESA scientist Dr. Robert Fosbury, who has used the Hubble for his own research, the film combines the telescope's imagery with 3D animation developed by Art Director Martin Kornmesser, that "enhances... the underlying science."

The DVD includes the 83-minute film and 60 minutes of bonus material, including narration in three languages: English, German and Greek. Subtitles are also provided in Bulgarian, Danish, English, German, Greek, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Finnish and Swedish.

More than 500,000 copies of the DVD will be distributed beginning April 24, leading ESA to claim it will be "probably the most widely available science documentary ever." New Scientist offered its magazine readers a chance to get one of 40,000 copies of the DVD through its April 23 issue.

The soundtrack

Accompanying the release of the DVD is a CD soundtrack of the film's score.

Composed specifically for this project by the German composer duo moveTWO - Axel Kornmesser and Markus Löffler - the score provides a setting for an "audiovisual voyage through the cosmos."

Available beginning in May, the CD will be bundled with the DVD in selected music stores throughout Europe and the USA, as well as sold on Amazon.com.

The book

The 15th anniversary book, produced by ESA, provides an overview of the Hubble with special "emphasis on the magnificent images and the incredible discoveries."

The 120-page, full color publication illustrates the close relationship between the telescope's valuable scientific results and the eye-catching beauty of the images it has captured.

Notes British astronomer Malcolm Longair in the preface to the ESA book, "The images included in this beautiful volume are quite staggering in what they reveal about the Universe we live in and have already become part of our common scientific and cultural heritage."

The book will be available through various retail outlets.

Planetarium shows

To spread awareness of the anniversary and to distribute free copies of the DVD, more than 40 Hubble Day events are being held today at planetariums and other venues throughout Europe. Many of the locations will also use the occasion to debut new Hubble-themed shows and two "anniversary images" will be unveiled.

Similar planetarium events will be hosted at 100 sites in the United States on March 25, where the two mural-size photographs of the Whirlpool Galaxy and of a great Stellar Spire in the Eagle Nebula will be shared with the public.

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