Travelling the galaxy to research ancient stars is hard enough for scientists, much less high schools in regional Victoria - but virtual reality is giving more students the chance to see the universe for themselves.
The Mission Gravity program took over the Ballarat Tech School on Tuesday, with science students lining up to have a shot at examining white and red dwarf stars, and black holes, in a collaborative environment.
The project is run by the ARC's Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery - or OzGrav - which detects and studies the warps and ripples in spacetime caused by spinning neutron star collisions.
READ MORE: Ballarat's Science Week 2019 ready to launch
Jackie Bondell is OzGrav's education and public outreach coordinator - it's her job to pull bits out of the world-class research and adapt it for school curriculums, to get people engaged in this complex subject.
For Mission Gravity, students donned VR headsets, hooked up to large screens so teams can work together, to compare the temperature of stars as they evolved.
Stars grow larger and cooler over time, eventually becoming too heavy and collapsing in on themselves and exploding, or becoming a black hole - basically, this is called stellar evolution.
Here on Earth, scientists are investigating what happens next - and at the Ballarat Tech School, students could look at stars at different stages of their lifecycle, in relative sizes.
That's the key part, Ms Bondell said.
"One of the great things with VR in astrophysics is the scale of things in astronomy is sometimes very difficult to comprehend," she said.
"By having a virtual reality environment, we're able to keep that scale correct and let them move through space in order to better understand how big these stars actually get.
"Giving them that sense of scale, I think, is really useful.
"It's letting them be the scientists, collect the data, make mistakes, collect more, and make the observations so they can leave not just knowing the numbers associated with stellar evolution, but also being able to visualise it."
Ballarat Tech School's director Sofia Fiusco said accessing the virtual reality technology would be useful for other programs as well.
"For us, we were really interested to see how they designed the immersive experience, and from a tech school perspective we can learn from them around how they designed the learning experience that intersects with science and technology," she said.
"(It's) that importance of showing them something different - especially because of the year that it is (50 years since the Moon landing), that's showing how far we've come, we're using virtual tech to see into space as well, so how does that change research that can occur across the world?"
The students themselves seemed excited poke around with the technology - Phoenix P-12 Community College year nine Lily Harmer said she appreciated the chance to try "real" virtual reality.
"I'm a visual learner, so it's easier to learn," she said.
"I didn't know much about stars, so learning about how some of them get bigger and cooler - I thought it was the opposite way around."
By running the program during Science Week, Ms Bondell said it was another opportunity to provide regional students to resources they might otherwise not get to use.
"Students and teachers near Melbourne have got the resources, they can go to Swinburne and the universities, they can go to the science museums," she said.
"We've set up our VR system so we can just pack it into a suitcase and travel to a school, and all I need is a projector - then I can bring collaborative VR to students that might not otherwise have access.
"It's giving us the opportunity to get out to places all over"
Science Week launched with a bang on Monday with kid-friendly experiments, and continues this Friday with a presentation on Indigenous astronomy, and on Saturday with a virtual reality Moonwalk.
For more information, or to book a spot, visit https://www.scienceweek.net.au/
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