The Dish

In 2009, during a 3-week sojourn to New South Wales, one of my “must-see” stops was the radio telescope in Parkes. The movie is an odd bit of cinematography which took certain liberties with its rôle in the Apollo 11 moon mission, but participate it did, and in a very significant manner. More at Wikipedia.

The Void has always fascinated me. I can remember being 11 or 12 years old, lying on my back with a friend on Fire Island, holding flashlights we had acquired at Ringling Brothers’ Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden, and shining our beams up into the sky, wondering if the light would go on forever and ever. Assuming nothing got in the way, anyone with sensors strong enough on a planet circling 31 Aquilae (49.5 light years away) might detect a few of our photons right about now.

Stars within 50 light years of Earth. Found at Atlas of the Universe.

As a result, being within driving distance of Parkes made this an absolute necessity.

The thing is big, and dominates the landscape as you approach it.

It’s even bigger up close, and in some ways more impressive than the large telescope at the NRAO in Virginia, because you can get closer to it.

Being a working telescope, it moved quite a bit during my visit.

They have a very nice visitors center with lots of things to learn about, some hands-on displays, and an AV presentation.

But this was my favorite part of the visit:

Beef and burgundy pie, at the Dish café: exquisite – I have never tasted better, although a friend of mine in Dubbo tells me there’s a pie shop I missed that does them one up. Next trip for sure.

And the scenery while dining was overpowering.

Still working hard, in 2012 the Observatory received special signals from the Mars rover Opportunity, to simulate the Curiosity rover UHF radio. This helped prepare for the then upcoming Curiosity landing on August 6, 2012.

If I had another lifetime and a brain that was not math challenged, working with a device like this would be a wonderful way to spend a career.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

5 responses to “The Dish

  1. Magnificent! My first reaction, though, upon seeing it was an instinctive urge to reach out a hand to help support it. The apparent centre of gravity seems way off in some of the shots. “How the bleep does the brick building underneath the dish not get crushed to rubble under its weight?” I can only assume that either a) the dish is lighter than it looks, or b) there’s more to its brick-clad foundations than meets the eye. Plus I’d really love to try that pie.

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