Visit to Parkes Radio Telescope

This weekend we decided to get out of town for a few days and head out for a little science education. The first place we visited was the Age of Fishes Museum in Canowindra, NSW.  It really is an amazing place full of very rare fish fossils from the Devonian period that were unearthed in Canowindra in 1955.  If you’re in the area I highly recommend a visit!

From Canowindra it’s only hour to CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope located just north of Parkes, NSW, so how could we resist?

The Parkes radio telescope is a 64 metre diameter parabolic dish used for radio astronomy. The telscope is operated by CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS), a business unit of CSIRO. CASS also operates the Australia Telescope Compact Array near Narrabri, NSW, and the Mopra radio telescope near Coonabarabran, NSW, and is developing the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope in Western Australia.

Even though the telescope was built in 1961, it’s been upgraded a number of times and is one of the worlds premier research instruments. You can read about it’s current research on pulsar timing array project here, constraints of supermassive black hole growth here and measuring mass of planets using pulsar timing here!

Parkes Dish in the paddocks

You can see the distant Parkes Dish in the paddocks… It was cold and overcast day!

The dish is an amazing piece of machinery!

View from the visitors centre

This is a view of the dish from the the side of the visitors centre

We were very fortunate to be able to get an up close view of the dish….

Close view of the dish

A close view of the dish

A view of the structure of the dish itself – which weighs about 1000 tonnes!

Behind the dish

Structure of the dish.

The dish only takes about 15 minutes to rotate a full 360 degrees.

Side view

Side view of the dish.

If you’re interested in visiting the Parkes Radio Telescope, there’s plenty to do:

  • get a great view of the dish from outside the visitors centre
  • explore the Astronomy and Space Science Exhibition
  • discover the Universe in the high definition 3D theatre
  • send the kids on an AstroKids Scavenger Hunt
  • have lunch at the ‘Dish Café’

We had a lovely afternoon at the Dish and ended up buying a few things from the visitors centre shop.  It’s well stocked with all sorts of science/nerdy stuff and you can even order items through their online shop!

One day we’d love to get to CSIRO’s Telescope Array at Narrabri – but that’s a much longer drive!!  Until then we’ll continue to spend time volunteering and hanging out at the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex.

Clear skies