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22 December 2022

Beyond the Milky Way and The Antarctica Experience open on Boxing Day in Canberra

Soar beyond our solar system and experience the greatest scientific endeavour in history or explore a frozen fragment of the only planet which sustains life in two virtual reality (VR) films.

The National Museum of Australia will present a new virtual reality experience, Beyond the Milky Way, from acclaimed filmmaker Briege Whitehead and her innovative company, White Spark Pictures, alongside a relaunch of her film, the ever-popular The Antarctica Experience, on 26 December 2022.

Beyond the Milky Way will have its east coast premiere at the National Museum. It takes viewers to the radio-quiet, remote Western Australian outback to discover the Single Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescopes, which will expand our understanding of the universe and drive technological developments worldwide.

National Museum Assistant Director Ruth Wilson said she was delighted to bring these unique virtual reality experiences to Canberra.

‘The Museum has a well-earned reputation for embracing new technology and providing innovative ways for our visitors to experience Australian stories. Virtual reality provides an exclusive opportunity to explore remote regions of the earth and space that are difficult to access for the average person,’ Ms Wilson said.

Beyond the Milky Way is an immersive 25-minute, 360-degree virtual reality cinema experience that takes us to the edge of the universe.

‘And without making the journey, there is no better way to experience Antarctica than through this documentary. The Antarctica Experience enables visitors to explore the mysterious continent and discover the amazing work of our Antarctic scientists.’

Briege Whitehead said, ‘We are thrilled to bring The Antarctica Experience back to the National Museum of Australia and for Beyond the Milky Way to have such a wonderful new home. Visitors will be swiftly transported onto Wajarri Yamaji country in the remote Australian outback where we hope to uncover the secrets of the universe through the future SKA project, the world’s largest radio-telescope.

‘With our immersive VR films, we are passionate about giving people unique and memorable experiences by taking them to places that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to visit.’

Narrated by astrophysicist and well-known TV presenter Professor Brian Cox, this virtual time machine will enable us to see further into space-time than ever before and will present our greatest chance of discovering extra-terrestrial life and the origins of the universe.

Beyond the Milky Way will take audiences on a virtual tour of Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, where the SKA-Low telescope is being constructed, and out into the universe using world-class instruments already on site. Viewers will hear from astronomers who will use the SKA, as well as the Traditional Owners, the Wajarri Yamaji people, who have been observing the stars for tens of thousands of years.

In creating Beyond the Milky Way, the White Spark team were granted unprecedented access to the observatory site where they filmed with the latest extreme resolution 360-degree cameras, custom-built drone and timelapse rigs, and pioneered new production technologies to showcase the telescopes in VR like never before.

In The Antarctica Experience, museum visitors journey to the coldest place on earth, walk among penguins in their natural habitat, gaze at the brilliant colours of the Southern Lights, soar over frozen landscapes from the cockpit of a helicopter and land on remote glaciers.

Visitors to The Antarctica Experience will experience life as an expeditioner and scientist, cruising icy waters on a tour of secluded bays, and have exclusive behind-the-scenes access to one of Australia’s permanent research stations in Antarctica.

Equipped with VR headsets, visitors will marvel at the remarkable sights of the Milky Way and Antarctica with simultaneous 360-degree vision and theatrical surround sound. Beyond the Milky Way and The Antarctica Experience open at the National Museum of Australia’s Visions Theatre on 26 December 2022. Sessions are about 30 minutes per film.


The SKA is a global mega-science project to build the world’s largest and most capable radio telescopes. It will be hosted in two countries. Australia will have 131,072 antennas, each two metres tall and shaped like a Christmas tree, receiving low-frequency radio waves. South Africa will have 197 dish antennas, receiving mid-frequency radio waves. The SKA will be 10 times more sensitive and much faster at surveying galaxies than any current radio telescopes.

The UK-based SKA Observatory is responsible for building and operating the telescopes. It is an intergovernmental organisation currently involving 16 nations, including members and observers.

Media contacts: Diana Streak 0409 888 976 | Matthew Heap 0459 949 172 or

Beyond the Milky Way is a White Spark Pictures production. Principal production investment is from Screen Australia in association with Screenwest & Lotterywest. Financed with support from the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), CSIRO (Australia’s national science agency), the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre, Scitech and Inspiring Australia, SKA Observatory (SKAO), ASTRO 3D (ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions) and Western Australian Museum.

The Antarctica Experience would not have been possible without the support of White Spark Pictures’ key partners: Screen Australia, Screenwest, Lotterywest, Australian Antarctic Program, DNEG and the Western Australian Museum. White Spark Pictures travelled to Antarctica with the support of the Australian Antarctic Program.

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