Parkes Observatory

The Parkes Observatory is a radio telescope observatory, 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, and was one of several radio antennas used to receive live, televised images of the Apollo 11 moon landing on 20 July 1969.
It was featured in the 2000 film The Dish, a fictionalised account of the observatory's involvement with the landing.

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.

The telescope has an altazimuth mount guided by a small mock-telescope placed within the structure at the same rotational axes as the dish, but with an equatorial mount. The two are dynamically locked when tracking an astronomical object by a laser guiding system.

The success of the Parkes telescope led NASA to copy the basic design in their Deep Space Network, with matching 64 m dishes built at Goldstone, Madrid and Tidbinbilla.
The receiving cabin is located at the focus of the parabolic dish, supported by three struts 27 metres above the dish, and the cabin contains multiple radio and microwave detectors, which can be switched into the focus beam for different science observations.

During the Apollo missions to the moon, the Parkes Observatory was used to relay communication and telemetry signals to NASA, providing coverage for when the moon was on the Australian side of the Earth. It also played a role in relaying data from the NASA Galileo mission to Jupiter that required radio-telescope support due to the use of its backup telemetry subsystem as the principal means to relay science data. The observatory has remained involved in tracking numerous space missions up to the present day, including Mariner 2, Mariner 4, Voyager, Giotto and Cassini-Huygens.

 


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