Parkes Observatory added to National Heritage List.

Throsby Jnr forced to model at Parkes Observatory in 1990.

The most famous dish in the nation, the CSIRO Parkes Observatory, will be conserved and protected under National Heritage status.

The observatory’s 64-metre radio astronomy telescope, famous for the pictures it beamed from man’s first walk on the Moon and for the movie it inspired decades later, will today becomes the 118th site to be added to the National Heritage List.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said that CSIRO’s 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 observe the universe day and night, seven days a week, with the most advanced radio receiver systems in the world,” Dr Marshall said.

The telescope still holds the record for detecting the most pulsars – rapidly spinning neutron stars.”

"The Dish" was one of the first large single-dish radio telescopes in the world and the largest in the southern hemisphere, giving it disproportionate importance in the world of astronomy.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the National Heritage listing recognises decades of work by Australian scientists, engineers and others involved with advancing our nation’s role in understanding the universe, as well as the Dish itself.

The role of Parkes Observatory as a ground station (along with the NASA site at Honeysuckle Creek) in the 1969 Apollo 11 mission moon landing to a global audience of 530 million people, showcases a world of Australian science technology and engineering design,” Minister Ley said.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the Parkes Observatory is a key part of Australia’s scientific capability.

The Parkes Telescope was built at a time when Australia was emerging as a global leader in the ground-breaking field of radio astronomy, and most famously played an integral role in man walking on the Moon,” Minister Andrews said.

The Dish is part of Australia’s proud cultural and scientific history and to this day continues to serve as an important tool in our understanding of the universe.

CSIRO Parkes radio telescope milestones
  • 1961: Construction of the 64-metre diameter telescope at CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory is completed, an achievement of engineering and technical design.
  • 1962: Researchers using Parkes find that our Galaxy has a magnetic field a million times weaker than Earth’s magnetic field.
  • 1968: Astronomers using Parkes detect pulsar signals, just weeks after UK researchers announce the discovery of pulsars.
  • 1969: Parkes receives television signals from the Apollo 11 Moon landing and relay them to a worldwide audience of 600 million people.           
  • 1973: Parkes is used to discover the Magellanic Stream, a long trail of hydrogen gas flowing from two small neighbouring galaxies called the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.
  • 1982: Researchers using Parkes discover a quasar called PKS 2000-330, the most distant object in the Universe known at the time.
  • 1998-2003: Astronomers carry out a survey with Parkes that reveals a new spiral arm in our Galaxy.
  • 2003: Astronomers using Parkes discover the first known double pulsar system which enables stringent tests of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.
  • 2007: An unexpected burst of radio waves, more recently known as a ‘fast radio burst’, is found using Parkes archival data.
  • 2011: Astronomers using Parkes discover a planet, most likely composed of compressed carbon, in orbit around a pulsar that is dubbed the ‘diamond planet’.
  • 2018-19: NASA use Parkes to support the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in tracking the Voyager 2 spacecraft as it enters interstellar space.

More information about the National Heritage List can be found at www.environment.gov.au