Virtual reality documentary to bring mega-telescope project to life

10 Dec 2020 | 3 mins

The world’s largest radio telescope, which scientists from The University of Western Australia have contributed to through the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), will be the subject of a virtual reality documentary.

Award-winning West Australian production company White Spark Pictures has received funding from Screen Australia, Screenwest and Lotterywest to produce the documentary Beyond the Stars.

"We’ll take audiences on a VR tour of CSIRO’s Murchison Radio Astronomy-Observatory through the eyes of the people working on the site, the astronomers who will eventually use the SKA, and the Wajarri Yamaji traditional land owners.”

Briege Whitehead

The funding follows White Spark’s first virtual reality production, The Antarctica Experience, which is one of the most successful VR documentary experiences of all time. 

White Spark creative director Briege Whitehead said it was great to have an opportunity to promote cutting-edge science happening in her home state.

“This production will allow people of all ages and cultural backgrounds to virtually experience the  Australian site for the Square Kilometre Array—a part of the world that few will ever visit in person,” she said.

“It will be shot using specialised 360-degree cameras capable of extreme resolution.

"We’ll take audiences on a VR tour of CSIRO’s Murchison Radio Astronomy-Observatory through the eyes of the people working on the site, the astronomers who will eventually use the SKA, and the Wajarri Yamaji traditional land owners.”

Beyond the Stars is also supported by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

ICRAR executive director Professor Peter Quinn, who is based at The University of Western Australia, said it’s an exciting time for the SKA.

“The world is coming together to build a telescope capable of observing the first stars and galaxies to appear in the Universe 13 billion years ago,” he said.

“After nearly two decades of designing and decision-making, construction of the telescope is set to start in Australia and South Africa in the course of next year.

“It’s an enormous international effort, and we’re keen to bring as many people as possible along for the ride through virtual reality.”

“Western Australia’s remote Murchison region is a truly special place,” said Rebecca Wheadon, CSIRO’s site entity leader for Australia’s SKA site. 

“We have a profound duty to share this landscape, its cultural history and our role in building the world’s biggest radio telescope,” she said.

Beyond the Stars will feature at the new WA Museum Boola Bardip in late 2021, before touring to other Western Australian Museum venues in 2022.

Media references

Jess Reid, UWA Media & PR Adviser, 08 6488 6876

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