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Parkes Observatory

Parkes Observatory

Overview

The Parkes Observatory is a radio telescope
Radio telescope
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. The same types of antennas are also used in tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes...

 observatory, 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes
Parkes, New South Wales
- Transport :Parkes has a local bus service provided by Western Road Liners, which acquired Harris Bus Lines in March 2006. The Indian Pacific also stops twice a week, as well as the Broken Hill Outback Xplorer service, run by CountryLink, which heads to Broken Hill on Mondays and Sydney on...

, New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. It was one of several radio antennas used to receive live, televised images of the Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

 moon landing on 20 July 1969.

The Parkes Radio Telescope, completed in 1961, was the brainchild of E.G. (Taffy) Bowen, chief of the CSIRO's Radiophysics Laboratory. During the Second World War, he had worked on radar development in the US and had made some powerful friends in the scientific community.
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Encyclopedia

The Parkes Observatory is a radio telescope
Radio telescope
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. The same types of antennas are also used in tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes...

 observatory, 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes
Parkes, New South Wales
- Transport :Parkes has a local bus service provided by Western Road Liners, which acquired Harris Bus Lines in March 2006. The Indian Pacific also stops twice a week, as well as the Broken Hill Outback Xplorer service, run by CountryLink, which heads to Broken Hill on Mondays and Sydney on...

, New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. It was one of several radio antennas used to receive live, televised images of the Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

 moon landing on 20 July 1969.

Radio telescope


The Parkes Radio Telescope, completed in 1961, was the brainchild of E.G. (Taffy) Bowen, chief of the CSIRO's Radiophysics Laboratory. During the Second World War, he had worked on radar development in the US and had made some powerful friends in the scientific community. Calling on this old boy network
Old boy network
An old boy network, or society, can refer to social and business connections among former pupils of male-only private schools. British public school students were traditionally called "boys", thus graduated students are "old boys"....

, he persuaded two philanthropic organisations, the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a prominent philanthropic organization and private foundation based at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. The preeminent institution established by the six-generation Rockefeller family, it was founded by John D. Rockefeller , along with his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr...

 to fund half the cost of the telescope. It was this recognition and key financial support from the US that persuaded then Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Robert Menzies
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, , Australian politician, was the 12th and longest-serving Prime Minister of Australia....

 to agree to fund the rest of the project.

Hardware


The primary observing instrument is the 64-metre movable dish telescope, second largest in the Southern Hemisphere, and one of the first large movable dishes in the world (DSS-43 'Deep Space Station'-43 at Tidbinbilla was extended from 64 m to 70 m in 1987, surpassing Parkes). After its completion it has operated almost continuously to the present day. The dish surface was physically upgraded by adding smooth metal plates to the central part to provide focusing capability for centimetre and millimetre length microwave
Microwave
Microwaves, a subset of radio waves, have wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. This broad definition includes both UHF and EHF , and various sources use different boundaries...

s. The outer part of the dish remains a fine metal mesh, creating its distinctive two-tone appearance.

The 18m dish antenna in the foreground of the photo was transferred from the Fleurs Observatory (Mills Cross) in 1963. Mounted on rails and powered by a tractor engine to allow the distance between it and the main dish to be easily varied, it was used as an interferometer with the main dish, and as a transmit uplink antenna in the Apollo program. It has been abandoned since the early 1980s.

The telescope has an altazimuth mount
Altazimuth mount
An altazimuth or alt-azimuth mount is a simple two-axis mount for supporting and rotating an instrument about two mutually perpendicular axes; one vertical and the other horizontal. Rotation about the vertical axis varies the azimuth of the pointing direction of the instrument...

. It is guided by a small mock-telescope placed within the structure at the same rotational axes as the dish, but with an equatorial mount
Equatorial mount
An equatorial mount is a mount for instruments that follows the rotation of the sky by having one rotational axis parallel to the Earth's axis of rotation. This type of mount is used for astronomical telescopes and cameras...

. The two are dynamically locked when tracking an astronomical object by a laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 guiding system. This primary-secondary approach was designed by Barnes Wallis
Barnes Wallis
Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, CBE FRS, RDI, FRAeS , was an English scientist, engineer and inventor. He is best known for inventing the bouncing bomb used by the RAF in Operation Chastise to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley during World War II...

.

The success of the Parkes telescope led NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 to copy the basic design in their Deep Space Network
Deep Space Network
The Deep Space Network, or DSN, is a world-wide network of large antennas and communication facilities that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions. It also performs radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe, and supports selected...

, with matching 64 m dishes built at Goldstone
Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex
The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex  — commonly called the Goldstone Observatory — is located in California's Mojave Desert. Operated by ITT Corporation for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, its main purpose is to track and communicate with space missions. It includes the Pioneer...

, Madrid
Madrid Deep Space Communication Complex
The Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex is a ground station located in Robledo de Chavela, Spain, and operated by Ingenieria y Servicios Aeroespaciales, S.A. for Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial.-Deep Space Network:...

 and Tidbinbilla
Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is a ground station that is located in Australia at Tidbinbilla in the Paddys River valley, about half an hour's drive out of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. The complex is part of the Deep Space Network run by NASA's Jet Propulsion...

.

Receivers


The receiving cabin is located at the focus of the parabolic dish, supported by three struts 27 metres above the dish. The cabin contains multiple radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 and microwave
Microwave
Microwaves, a subset of radio waves, have wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. This broad definition includes both UHF and EHF , and various sources use different boundaries...

 detectors, which can be switched into the focus beam for different science observations.

The observatory is a part of the Australia Telescope National Facility
Australia Telescope National Facility
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 's radio astronomy observatories are collectively known as the Australia Telescope National Facility , with the facility supporting Australia's research in radio astronomy....

 network of radio telescopes. The 64m dish is frequently operated together with the Australia Telescope Compact Array
Australia Telescope Compact Array
The Australia Telescope Compact Array is a radio telescope at the Paul Wild Observatory, twenty five kilometres west of the town of Narrabri in Australia....

 at Narrabri and a single dish at Mopra
Mopra Observatory
The 22-metre Mopra Radio Telescope, located near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, is part of the Australia Telescope National Facility, operated by CSIRO. The name hails from the location of the facility close to Mopra Rock a geological formation overlooking the telescope...

, to form a very long baseline interferometry
Very Long Baseline Interferometry
Very Long Baseline Interferometry is a type of astronomical interferometry used in radio astronomy. It allows observations of an object that are made simultaneously by many telescopes to be combined, emulating a telescope with a size equal to the maximum separation between the telescopes.Data...

 array.

Historical non-astronomy research


During the Apollo missions to the moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

, the Parkes Observatory was used to relay communication and telemetry signals to NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

, providing coverage for when the moon was on the Australian side of the Earth.

The telescope also played a role in relaying data from the NASA Galileo mission to Jupiter that required radio-telescope support due to the use of its backup telemetry subsystem as the principal means to relay science data.
The observatory has remained involved in tracking numerous space missions up to the present day, including
  • Mariner 2
    Mariner 2
    Mariner 2 , an American space probe to Venus, was the first space probe to conduct a successful planetary encounter . The first successful spacecraft in the NASA Mariner program, it was a simplified version of the Block I spacecraft of the Ranger program and an exact copy of Mariner 1...

  • Mariner 4
    Mariner 4
    Mariner 4 was the fourth in a series of spacecraft, launched on November 28, 1964, intended for planetary exploration in a flyby mode and performed the first successful flyby of the planet Mars, returning the first pictures of the Martian surface...

  • Voyager
  • Giotto
    Giotto mission
    Giotto was a European robotic spacecraft mission from the European Space Agency, intended to fly by and study Halley's Comet. On 13 March 1986, the mission succeeded in approaching Halley's nucleus at a distance of 596 kilometers....

  • Galileo
    Galileo spacecraft
    Galileo was an unmanned spacecraft sent by NASA to study the planet Jupiter and its moons. Named after the astronomer and Renaissance pioneer Galileo Galilei, it was launched on October 18, 1989 by the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-34 mission...

  • Cassini-Huygens
    Cassini-Huygens
    Cassini–Huygens is a joint NASA/ESA/ASI spacecraft mission studying the planet Saturn and its many natural satellites since 2004. Launched in 1997 after nearly two decades of gestation, it includes a Saturn orbiter and an atmospheric probe/lander for the moon Titan, although it has also returned...



The observatory and telescope were featured in the 2000 film The Dish
The Dish
The Dish is a 2000 Australian film that tells the story of how the Parkes Observatory was used to relay the live television of man's first steps on the moon, during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969...

, a fictionalised account of the observatory's involvement with the Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

 moon landing.

The CSIRO has made several documentaries on this observatory, with some of these documentaries being posted to YouTube.

Apollo 11 broadcast


When Buzz Aldrin switched on the TV camera on the Lunar Module, three tracking antennas received the signals simultaneously. They were the 64 metre Goldstone antenna in California, the 26 metre antenna at Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra in Australia, and the 64 metre dish at Parkes.

In the first few minutes of the broadcast, NASA alternated between the signals being received from its two stations at Goldstone and Honeysuckle Creek, searching for the best quality picture.

A little under nine minutes into the broadcast, the TV was switched to the Parkes signal. The quality of the TV pictures from Parkes was so superior that NASA stayed with Parkes as the source of the TV for the remainder of the 2.5 hour broadcast. For a comprehensive explanation of the TV reception of the Apollo 11 broadcast, see "The Television Broadcasts" from the report "On Eagles Wings".

On Monday, 31 October 2011, Google replaced its logo with a Google Doodle in honor of Parkes Observatory's 50th Anniversary. It was only visible on Google in Australia.

Astronomy research timeline


1960s
  • Built 1961 and was fully operational by 1963.
  • Support for the NASA Apollo Missions in late 1960s.


1970s
  • Receiver upgrades and detailed observations begin.


1980s
  • Upgrade to 64m from previously smaller aperture.


1990s
  • Between 1997 and 2002 it conducted the HIPASS
    HIPASS
    The HI Parkes All Sky Survey was an astronomical survey for neutral atomic hydrogen . Data was taken between 1997 and 2002 using the Parkes Observatory. HIPASS covered 71% of the sky and identified 5317 sources emitting HI's signature wavelength...

     neutral hydrogen survey, the largest blind survey for galaxies in the neutral hydrogen line to date.


2000s
  • More than half of currently known pulsar
    Pulsar
    A pulsar is a highly magnetized, rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation. The radiation can only be observed when the beam of emission is pointing towards the Earth. This is called the lighthouse effect and gives rise to the pulsed nature that gives pulsars their name...

    s were discovered by the Parkes Observatory.

External links