Parkes Observatory

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Aerial view of the Parkes Observatory
The great radio telescope
ABC interview on the role in Apollo 11

Coordinates: 33 ° 0 ′ 0 ″  S , 148 ° 15 ′ 44 ″  E

Map: Australia
Parkes Observatory

The Parkes Observatory is a radio observatory in Australia and was designed and built in 1960 by the MAN plant in Gustavsburg . Its 392 m altitude is 20 km from Parkes , New South Wales . It was best known for broadcasting the first moon landing to the rest of the world.


The main instrument is the Parkes radio telescope , which, with an antenna diameter of 64 meters, was the largest movable telescope of its kind in the southern hemisphere . It was built in 1961 and has been in use almost continuously ever since. The antenna became the design model for the first 64-meter antennas for NASA's Deep Space Network . Later, the inside was lined in the middle with a smooth metal in order to detect microwaves in the centimeter and millimeter range. The outer edge remained a fine metal grid. All of this gives the bowl a distinctive look.

The telescope is aligned with the help of an azimuthal mount which was constructed in the Askania works . It is guided through a small telescope in the same structure, but which is equipped with an equatorial mount . When tracking an astronomical object, the two are dynamically linked with a laser system.

The receiver cabin in the focus of the parabolic dish is held by three struts at a height of 27 meters. It contains various measuring instruments for radio and microwaves , which can be brought into focus for examinations.

The observatory is part of the Australia Telescope National Facility , a network of radio telescopes. It very often works with the Australia Telescope Compact Array in Narrabri and a single antenna in Mopra using the Very Long Baseline Interferometry method .

During the Apollo program of NASA used the radio telescope also for communications and telemetry when the moon could be seen only on the Australian side of the world if the actual NASA ground station Honeysuckle Creek should have technical problems. This was also portrayed in The Dish , a feature film starring Sam Neill, in 2000 .

Some of the countless tasks of the radio telescope were and are the distance-sensitive search for signatures of hydrogen as an indicator for galaxies ( HIPASS project) and work for the SETI project.

If special situations require it, the antenna can also be switched on as DSS-49 of the Deep Space Network and expand the reception capabilities of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex . When Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause in November 2018 , it did so (and postponed other scientific activities) to allow the best possible data transfer to the spacecraft.


In 1998, short radio signals were detected in the Parkes Observatory, which were named Peryton . An origin of the signals could only be determined in 2015: A microwave oven in the kitchen of the facility generated them when the door was opened during operation. However, it is still not clear whether this is the only cause of the creation of perytons.

Web links

Commons : Parkes Observatory  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Robertson: 40 Years of The Dish , ABC Science online, accessed January 11, 2009.
  2. ^ Parkes radio telescope construction. February 11, 2011, accessed July 31, 2019 (Australian English).
  3. Jonathan Pearlman: Strange 'outer space' signal that baffled Australian scientists turns out to be microwave oven. In: The Telegraph. May 5, 2015, accessed July 12, 2019 .
  4. Chris Woolston: Microwave oven blamed for radio-telescope signals. In: May 8, 2015, accessed July 12, 2019 .
  5. Dirk Lorenzen: Microwaves from the depths of the kitchen. In: Deutschlandfunk. Retrieved July 12, 2019 .
  6. ^ Bob Yirka: Mystery of Peryton Reception at Australian Observatory solved: It's from microwave ovens. In: April 13, 2015, accessed on July 12, 2019 .