Well, it would be sad to visit Parkes and not go to the radio telescope. So that is just what we did.
The Parkes Radiothermal 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 America and had made some powerful friends in the scientific community. Calling on this old boy network, he persuaded two philanthropic organisations, the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation to fund half the cost of the telescope. It was this recognition and key financial support from America that persuaded then Prime Minister Robert Menzies to agree to fund the rest of the project.
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 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 microwaves. The outer part of the dish remains a fine metal mesh, creating its distinctive two-tone appearance.
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