After leaving the Warrumbungles we headed south to Parkes or more specifically “The Dish”. Leaving the country of Kamilaroi people, and moving into country traditionally owned by Wiradjuri people just want to acknowledge their continuing connection to the land and pay respect to their elders, past, present and emerging. Where ever possible we will always try to acknowledge traditional owners of country and pay respect.
For ten years we lived in Canberra, ACT and our families lived in South East Queensland. This meant that twice a year we would make the trek to Queensland via the Newell Highway. The quickest route on this path did not go through Parkes so while I knew it was there, we never visited the Radio Telescope near this town. When the movie “The Dish” was released, it made it clear it was something I had to visit. I remember clearly watching the first landing and those first steps on the moon on our black and white television in 1969, so knowing that this dish had a major part in producing those images almost made this a pilgrimage. So twenty years after those long trips I have finally visited.
The official name is the Parks Observatory and is now run by the CSIRO to undertake astronomical research. The role of communicating with spacecraft has moved to facilities closer to Canberra. Up close, the 64 meter dish is awesome and again I am impressed by the engineering of the facility and what it takes to move the tonnes of antenna around to accurately point to a minute part of the sky. We watched as the dish was realigned twice during our visit which was a bonus. Unlike an optical telescope, the radio telescope can be used 24 hours a day so observations are continuous. You may have noted the requests to turn off phones when entering the facility so that they do not interfere.
The visitor center was informative and contained one prop from the movie, (pictured). The information also contrasted the actual events during the moon landings and what was portrayed in the movie. I will leave the reader to investigate those differences. We did not visit the presentation which does cost but I hope this provides a background to the reason this telescope is used. To spark a little interest in young minds is an opportunity we should not miss. Some detail of what the dish was pointing at or the current research projects would have been interesting as well.
The included shop was comprehensive and I did get a few items including a book and shirt while I was there. The café was quite good and very busy. The movie has certainly made the dish a local tourist attraction.