The Parkes Radio Telescope Observatory, Five Decades On
In 1961, in central west New South Wales, Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) built a 64m high radio telescope, one of three that make up the Australia Telescope National Facility. Today, affectionately known as The Dish, nobody could have predicted her meteoric rise to fame.
One of the largest single dish telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere, she is now 10,000 times more powerful than when first built. Ideally suited to searching for Pulsars, (small spinning stars the size of a small city), she has found over half of the 2000 plus known today.
Modifications, have also enabled her to map vast tracts of the sky with an Australian designed and built, MultiBeam Receiver. In doing so she has found over 2500 new galaxies and all the Hydrogen Galaxies in our own Galaxy.
It is however, the association with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), that brought her to the forefront of public knowledge. In 1962, she tracked Mariner 2 on an interplanetary mission, as it flew by Venus. It was 1969, that really brought her out into the limelight. Her role as Primary Receiving Station for Apollo 11, and the first time Man walked the Moon, is a moment etched in the memory of any who lived it.
In 1970 she played a major part in the rescue of Apollo 13 following an explosion on board, and remained an integral part of NASA manned lunar programs until their closure in 1972. Since then, the 1980s Voyager 2 and Giotto interplanetary space missions have continued to relay communications through the Dish. In the 90's it was the turn of Galileo. In 2000 various Mars spacecraft employed her services along with Huygens spaceprobe that penetrated Titan's atmosphere, Saturn's largest moon.
Most recently it has been playing a support role in tracking Curiosity, the Mars Rover.
Now nearing her 60th birthday, she still remains at the forefront of Space discoveries, working round the clock for 85 percent of the year. She only stops for high winds and maintenance.
What a Dish! What a legacy!
© Robert Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography
BALLANTYNE Photography Travel and Events Photography and Photojournalism
To find out more about the Parkes Radio Telescope Observatory (The Dish) click here