About an hour and a half from Cowra is Parkes, so name after Henry Parkes in 1873 later Sir Henry Parkes.
Parkes is now famous for the radio telescope that is located just outside of the town.
It was built in 1961, but only the basic structure has remained. All of the electronics, control, cabling etc has been updated regularly and the Parkes Radio Telescope is now ten thousand time more sensitive than when it first started in 1961.
The design of the telescope was copied by NASA for the tracking dishes of its Deep Space Network.
The dish and the other moving parts weigh one million kilos (approx 1000 tons). The diameter of the dish is 64 metres (70 yards).
The dish is a receiver it never sends outbound signals – it is a listening unit.
The dish can be tilted to a maximum of 60 degrees, which take five minutes to complete.
The above photo is by David Crosling
Students can control the telescope over the internet.
The telescope is used 85% of the time, which allows time for maintenance – less than 5% is lost due to high winds. If the wind is greater than 35 km / hour (about 22 mph) the dish is pointed straight up.
During the Apollo 11 mission the Parkes Dish was the prime receiving station and during the Moon walk the Parke’s dish had to contend with wind gusting at over 100 km per hour, and the Director had to give special permission for the dish to operate.
The Dish was involved in further Apollo missions – 12, 14, 15, and 17. It was called on to help during the Apollo 13 emergency.
This telescope, in partnership with Jodrell Bank (UK) & the Green Bank telescope in West Virginia (US) discovered in 2003, the only known system of two pulsars.
The Parkes telescope has an accuracy of 11 arcseconds, which is about the width of a finger seen at a distance of 150 mtrs (164 yards).
If you are interested in the details of double pulsars – who isn’t? . . . . .
check out the link below – after reading it a few times I think I grasped a little.
Check if I am correct
The double pulsar is ‘only’ 2000 light years away from us.
One light year is the distance that light will travel, in an Earth year, which is 9.5 trillion km or 5.88 trillion miles, now multiply those figures by 2000 . . . . .
The various objects in space issue radio waves and it these waves that the Parkes Telescope captures, and using computers the captured radio waves are converted into pictures.
I copied the above pictures and explanation from the Australian Telescope Fast Facts leaflet.
The radio waves received are so weak by the time they reach Earth they are measured as a hundredth of a million of a million watt.
If you were to use the power in the captured radio wave to heat water, it would take 70,000 years to heat one drop of water one degree Centigrade or 33.8 degree Fahrenheit.
If you are looking for a light-hearted look at Parkes radio telescope, try a film called ‘The Dish’ with Sam Neill in the lead role.
If you do watch this film be aware that it is entertainment – in real life they did not have a power failure, they did not lose the track of the spacecraft, there were more than four people involved at the time, the Australians & the Americans were not against each other – they had a good working relationship, the PM of Australia did not visit Parkes, but he did visit the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station.
The Prime Minister of Australia
John Gorton, (1911-2002),he was Knighted in 1977,
The PM visited Honeysuckle Creek rather than Parkes on that momentous day in 1969 for a reason that is clear if you click on the link below.
Buzz Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong.