Press Release

“The Dish” turns 40 today – CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope was officially opened on 31 October 1961

By SpaceRef Editor
October 31, 2001
Filed under

Tomorrow scientists will celebrate the anniversary with a scientific
symposium at the Parkes Observatory in mid-west NSW.

Parkes was the world’s second ‘big dish’ radio telescope. Its design was
copied later for the antennas of NASA’s deep-space tracking stations.

“Building Parkes was a big project and a bold step,” says the Dr John
Reynolds, the Parkes Observatory’s Officer-in-Charge.

“It represented a great deal of faith in Australia’s scientific capability.”

Only the basic structure of the telescope has remained the same since 1961.
Continual upgrades of the dish’s surface, computers and electronics have
kept the telescope state-of-the-art.

The telescope’s scientific achievements include helping to identify the
first quasar, discovering magnetic fields in space, and finding more
pulsars than any other telescope.

Parkes has also helped track spacecraft, from the Apollo missions in the
’60s to Voyager and Giotto in the ’80s and Galileo in the ’90s.

The telescope was built by the CSIRO Division of Radiophysics, which had
been set up in 1939 to work on radar.

After the war the radar researchers turned their skills to new fields,
including studying radio waves from space. These had been discovered in
1932 but were not much investigated until after World War II.

The CSIRO researchers were among the first to show that some of the cosmic
radio waves came from other galaxies. Australia became a world leader in
the new field of radio astronomy.

In the 1950s Radiophysics’ Chief, Dr Edward (‘Taffy’) Bowen, argued that
Australia should build a large steerable telescope.

Many designs were considered. “Some were pretty way out,” says Dr
Reynolds.

The telescope was finally built with funding from the Australian
Government, the US Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation and
public contributions.

Mr John Bolton, a brilliantly talented radio astronomer and engineer,
was appointed as the Parkes Observatory’s first Director.

To celebrate the telescope’s 40th anniversary the Observatory will be
open to the public on the weekend of 3-4 November 2001.

There will be free tours of the telescope and other special activities
for visitors.

Betacam SP footage available:

* the current telescope

* telescope control room during 1969 Moon landing
* telescope construction


Contact: Helen Sim 02-9372-4251 or 0419-635-905

More information:

Helen Sim, Australia Telescope National Facility

02-9372-4251 or 0419-635-905

Dr John Reynolds, Officer in Charge (OIC), Parkes Observatory

02-6861-1733

Mr John Brooks, Assistant Director, Australia Telescope National Facility

02-9372-4227 and 0419-412-947

Mr John Sarkissian, Operations Scientist, Parkes Observatory

02-6861-1769

Mr Rick Twardy, Manager, Parkes Visitors Discovery Centre

02-6861-1777

Mr Peter Robertson, author of a history of the Parkes telescope, “Under
Southern Skies”

03-9499-1897

For more information about the open days:

Tel 02-6861-1777 (Parkes Observatory Visitors Centre) or visit
http://www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au

IMAGE CAPTIONS:

[Image 1:
http://www.csiro.au/index.asp?type=imageDef&id=dog_and_tractor_lg (134KB)]
The telescope in 1965, with (left) Maurice Puttock and ‘Austie’ Helm
(with dog and tractor in tow). Mr Helm sold CSIRO the land on which the
telescope was built. © Copyright CSIRO Australia, 1997-2001

[Image 2:
http://www.csiro.au/index.asp?type=imageDef&id=constructionlg (114KB)]
The telescope during construction. © Copyright CSIRO Australia, 1997-2001

[Image 3:
http://www.csiro.au/index.asp?type=imageDef&id=parkes_apollo11_lrg (138KB)]
Personnel in the Parkes control room at the time of the Apollo 11 mission,
July 1969. From left to right: George Kropp (NASA), Robert Taylor (NASA
Operations Manager), Wilson Hunter (NASA representative in Australia),
William Reytar (NASA) and John Bolton (Director, Parkes Observatory).
© Copyright CSIRO Australia, 1997-2001

[Image 4:
http://www.csiro.au/index.asp?type=imageDef&id=manchester_lg (204KB)]
Astronomer Dr Richard Manchester (ATNF) at the telescope’s control desk.
Credit: CSIRO. © Copyright CSIRO Australia, 1997-2001

Contacts

Ms Rosie Schmedding 

Communicator

CSIRO National Awareness

PO Box 225

Dickson ACT 2602

Phone: +61 2 6276 6520

Fax: +61 2 6276 6821

Email: [email protected]

Ms Helen Sim 

Sector Communicator

Australia Telescope National Facility

PO Box 76

Marsfield NSW 1710

Phone: +61 2 9372 4251

Fax: +61 2 9372 4310

Email: [email protected]

SpaceRef staff editor.