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Australia Space Science

Australia's Iconic Parkes Telescope Turns 50 30

angry tapir writes "It is rare for a piece of scientific equipment to hold a place in a nation's heart. But 'The Dish' — the CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope — has in its 50 years come to mean a lot more to Australians that just a complex piece of technology. The telescope is a 64-meter diameter parabolic dish used for radio astronomy, located about 20 kilometers north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales — about 380 kilometers west of Sydney. It even has its place on the Big Screen, immortalized in the 2000 movie, The Dish. Opened on 31 October 1961, the telescope is perhaps best known to Australians for its role in the 1969 moon landing. On 8 and 9 October, the CSIRO will throw open its doors to the Australian public in celebration of its 50th anniversary."
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Australia's Iconic Parkes Telescope Turns 50

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  • Much easier to retrieve the ball.

    • imagine a snooker or pool table made of parabolic dish and pocket in the center of it... or a soccer field...
    • by thogard ( 43403 )

      Was that the geekiest scenes out of the movie The Dish []? No geek movie library is complete without this movie. Has any movie based on true facts ever included a conversation about NASA getting their numbers wrong?

      From an online script:
      Every coordinate in this book has been changed.
      Yeah? I changed them.
      You what?
      I changed them.
      Because they were wrong.
      Why were they wrong?
      I don't know.
      No, what about them was wrong?
      The figures NASA sent us were for the Northern Hemisphere. And we're in the Southern Hemisp

  • Pulsars (Score:4, Interesting)

    by William Robinson ( 875390 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @03:52AM (#37636338)
    From Wikipedia:

    More than half of currently known pulsars were discovered by the Parkes Observatory.

    That is commendable. Should have been part of summary.

  • by niktemadur ( 793971 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:16AM (#37636688)

    First thing that came to mind was Aborigines gathered around a bonfire, playing the didgeridoo as John Glenn passes overhead, specifically Parkes being part of the tracking network since the Mercury Program. But it seems that no, the historically correct stations would be Honeysuckle, Tidbinbilla, Muchea and Carnarvon.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      as John Glenn passes overhead, specifically Parkes being part of the tracking network since the Mercury Program. But it seems that no,

      Mercury was low orbit. You do not need a 64 metre dish to talk to a guy just a few hundred km away.
      Apollo capsules went a thousand times further away.

    • Not quite. The one that David Gulpilil's character danced around was indeed Muchea. All of the others are post-Mercury era: Carnarvon was built for Gemini, and Orroral Valley, Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla were built for Apollo. And, of course, Tidbinbilla is the only station still open.

  • by G3ckoG33k ( 647276 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @08:04AM (#37637346)

    Brian Schmidt's Nobel Prize may add or at least secure new or continued funding. Nobel Prizes tend to make politicians softer. Which is good, of course! :)

    Here is an article about Brian []

  • Its great that it was there for some ground breaking radio astronomy work, the Apollo 11 landing, but that is also continues to provide good scientific data!
    I'm sure the core receivers and computer systems have been replaced/upgraded a dozen times over the years, but I'd bet some old engineer on site probably still has the original vacuum tube signal processing gear sitting in a back room.
    Tip of the Fozzies to ya.
    Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy, Oi, Oi, Oi!!!

    • by ashridah ( 72567 )

      The directors commentary on the dish suggests that a lot of the old equipment was just sitting around in a spare room, and all they had to do to get the sets setup was just push it into the right place, if memory serves (been a while since i watched it, but perhaps it's time to watch it again)

      • That's true. I worked there in the late 80's and several bits of obsolete gear was just sitting around. Most notable was a perspex hemisphere about two feet across which was part of the original pointing system (since upgraded several times). You can see that in the film.

  • I have a soft spot for this telescope. The Dish is one of my favourite, feel good movies. Happy birthday Parkes!
  • When I went to Australia a few years ago one of my must sees was The Dish. I got a good deal on a one-way car rental from Melbourne to Sydney and went exploring.

    The people at Parkes showed me a very good time. They were mapping pulsars in the Large Magellanic Cloud when I was there. I had my first naked-eye view of Alpha Centauri and the Southern Cross from the plane, but had my first decent view of the Eta Carinae region from St. Kilda Beach in Melbourne. The Magellanic Clouds had to wait; I first saw th

  • "It is rare for a piece of scientific equipment to hold a place in a nation's heart."

    I can think of at least one other similar example; the site at Jodrell Bank is pretty popular in the U.K., especially in the local area. It's a well-visited tourist spot and there was quite a lot of news locally when there was a possibility of it shutting down a few years back.

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