The Parks Radio Telescope
From Tamworth we drove to Dubbo and then on to West Wyalong, but on the way we stopped off near Parks to visit the Parks Radio Telescope. We had driven past on a few other occasions and seen the big dish in the distance but this time we decided that an actual visit was called for.
We really had no expectations of what to expect; would we stop by a high security fence for a photo or would there be more? The sign said ‘visitor centre’ so that sounded promising. We left the caravan in a huge car-park and entered the landscaped grounds. Immediately we were diverted to educational science displays in the gardens. Of particular interest were two parabolic dishes located about 200 metres apart. The sign said they were whispering dishes so Joan trotted off to the far one, and sure enough we could converse easily by facing the dish and talking in a normal voice. The sound was clear even though there was a strong wind blowing.
The visitor centre had lots to see. There was an exhibit of competition photos – some through telescopes, auroras, the moon, Southern Cross and the Milky Way. There was a display of the history and major events of the telescope. It had been built as a part of the 1960’s space race and received the actual film of the first step onto the moon. There was a display that described how the radio telescope worked and why it was vulnerable to radio interference. (We had to turn our phones onto flight mode while we were there.)
We had our morning coffee while we gazed at the telescope and while we sat there busloads of school children arrived as part of a science excursion. They certainly changed the atmosphere! Suddenly there was an announcement that the dish was being rotated so everybody surged outside to watch it slowly move.
As we left we stopped for one last photo of the dish seen behind a field of hay bales. The country here is just amazing. The crops are getting close to being ripe, with golden heads on top of green stalks. Combined with hazy blue hills in the distance and threatening clouds in the sky it made for spectacular views.