‘The Dish’ added to national heritage list

By on 12 August, 2020

CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope. Image: CSIRO/A. Cherney.

Iconic Parkes radio telescope becomes first functioning science instrument to be added to heritage register.

‘The Dish’, CSIRO’s radio telescope at Parkes in NSW that played a crucial role in relaying NASA’s 1969 Moon landing to Earth, has been recognised for its contribution to humankind’s understanding of the Universe, and Australian astronomy.

Completed in 1961, the Parkes telescope continues to play a critical role in observing extraterrestrial phenomena, having been pivotal in identifying the first fast radio burst, rapidly spinning neutron stars and most of the known pulsars.

Despite its age, the facility has been undergoing constant upgrades to its instrument and is now 10,000 times more sensitive than when it was first constructed.

A new ultra-wideband receiver, shown here in a testing chamber, was installed on CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope in 2018. Image: CSIRO.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr. Larry Marshall said the Parkes radio telescope is an icon of Australian science and innovation.

“While the Parkes telescope may be old enough to qualify for the National Heritage List, it continues to operate as one of the world’s leading astronomy instruments, observing the Universe day and night, seven days a week, with the most advanced radio receiver systems in the world,” he said.

“Australia has a long and proud history of science-driven innovation, from our first digital computer – CSIRAC, to the first air defence radar which helped to pave the way for the new field of radio astronomy after World War II, and more recently the development of fast Wi-Fi that connects people across the world to the internet.”

The Dish also has a significant stature within its locality, the central-western NSW town of Parkes. Mayor of Parkes Shire Council, Councillor Ken Keith OAM, said that the community was very proud of the telescope, and the 2000 Australian film The Dish enhanced the instrument’s profile and role in history.

“The telescope has certainly cemented its position as an iconic attraction for not only our community, but has gained worldwide attention, and has been pivotal to the growth of the Parkes Shire visitor economy,” Cr Keith said.

“It holds a special place in all of our hearts.”

CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope during construction. Image: CSIRO.

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