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2. Introducing the Parkes Observatory

2.1 The Parkes Site

The Parkes Observatory is located 414.80m above sea level at Latitude -32d 59m 54.263s South, Longitude 148d 15m 48.636s East, 25 kilometers North of the town of Parkes which is approximately 365 kilometres West of Sydney.

It is 6 kilometres off the Newell Highway, the main road from Parkes to Dubbo. The Shire has a population of 15,000 and the town a population of 10,000 and is in the middle of a rich sheep, wheat producing and mining area. The Observatory is part of The Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF), which is run by Astronomy and Space Science, a division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The Parkes site contains the 64-metre RadioTelescope, the 12-metre ASKAP prototype antenna, an administration building with offices, workshops and library, an Observer’s Quarters, Visitors Discovery Centre and The Dish Cafe. A map and key of the site can be found below.

JPEG/sitemap

Figure 1.1: Parkes Observatory Site Map

001:  Radio Telescope               003:  Lab/Lunch Room
004:  Standby Generator Building    006:  Visitors Centre
007:  Store Room                    008:  Observers Quarters
009:  Grounds Maintenance Workshop  010:  Flammable Liquids Store
013:  Store                         018:  Administration/Receiver Lab
019:  Pump House                    020:  Mechanical & Electrical Workshop
022:  Workshop                      024:  Observing Assist. hse (No2E)
025:  Observing Assist. hse (No1W)  026:  The Dish Cafe
027:  Visitors Toilet               028A: NASA Hut (Demountable)
028B: Office (Demountable)          028C: Office/Workshop (Demountable)
029:  Machinery Shed                    

2.2 The RadioTelescope

The collecting area of the telescope is a 64-m diameter paraboloid (the dish). The surface is high precision aluminium millimetre wavepanels to a diameter of 17-m (for operation to 43 GHz), then perforated aluminium plate out to 45-m, and rectangular galvanised steel 5/16-inch mesh for the remainder of the surface. The focal ratio is 0.41 for the full 64-m surface, the focus being located 26-m above the centre. The aerial cabin, which houses feeds and receiver equipment, is supported by a tripod. Access to the aerial cabin is either by the lift on one of the tripod legs (the "lift leg") or by a ladder on one of the other legs. The feed platform translator, which holds up to four receivers, at the base of the aerial cabin has both up/down (focus), lateral and rotational movement. Further properties of the RadioTelescope are shown below.

Weight of dish:                   300 tonnes
Weight of counterweights:         475 tonnes
Total weight of the dish:         1,000 tonnes
Surface area of reflecting mesh:  0.4 hectares (1 acre)
Height of concrete tower:         10.7 metres (35 ft)
Height to centre of dish:         27.4 metres (90 ft)
Height to top of aerial cabin:	  58.6 metres (192 ft)
Power of Azimuth/Zenith drives:   11 kW (15 hp)
Pointing accuracy:	          Generally less than 20 arcsec
Coverage:                         Az 0-360 deg., El 30.5-88.5 deg.

The dish may be operated between the Zenith angle software limits of 1.2 and 59.5 degrees. There are three hardware limits at Zenith angles less than 1.5 degrees, and also another three past 59.5 degrees. The dish can be "stowed" at a physical limit 30 minutes of arc beyond the Zenith. It is constrained in this position by a locking pin. Azimuth angle is measured as 0 degrees due north, increasing to the east.

2.3 Observers Quarters

For official observatory visitors, we have seven single rooms and a double room, two bathrooms each with bath, shower and toilet, a dining room, a meeting room and a lounge room. Quarters staff are present from 08am to 4pm weekdays. The cost of accommodation at the Parkes Observatory Quarters is shown in the table below.

Quarters Room: per room, per night: $70.50 breakfast foods included.

Quarters 4 bedroom unit: $93.20 nightly rate, minimum stay three nights or $652.30 weekly.

All prices are 10% GST inclusive. Students receive a 50% discount on room and meal prices and children under 12 are given a 50% discount on meals (breakfast.) The Quarters kitchen is now available for self catering, with meals no longer provided by Quarters staff. If you wish to purchase lunch and/or dinner from the Dish Cafe, please place your order directly with the Cafe. Please see the menu from the Dish Cafe and place your order with the Cafe either by phone or in person. Collect your meals from the Dish Cafe or organise delivery to the Quarters with Craig – the owner. Please note that hot food orders must be made before 12.30pm.

The Cafe is open 7 days from 8:30am to 4.15pm daily, except Christmas and Boxing Days. The phone number is: 6862 1566. Please let Craig, or his staff, know that you are a CSIRO visitor and entitled to a discount. Craig is also able to set up a tab for the duration of your visit.

The Quarters unit has five beds and is fully furnished and a fully functioning kitchen for self catering. There are also numerous motels in the township of Parkes. On arrival, check in at the quarters and leave your luggage in the room assigned to you. If you are not staying at the Quarters, check in at the administration desk (in the Administration Building). The administration desk is staffed from 8am to 4pm Mondays to Fridays. If you arrive after staff working hours, contact the Quarters prior to your arrival to obtain your room arrangements or you can find your room number from a schedule in the kitchen.

2.3.1 Booking Your Accomodation

Official visitors should inform the Observatory of their travel details and accommodation requirements by filling in the WWW ATNF Reservation Form as soon as possible before travelling, and at least three days in advance of arrival.

2.3.2 Getting to Parkes

There are regular transport services to Parkes from Sydney by planes, trains and automobiles (bus). There are also buses from Canberra, Brisbane, Narrabri, Melbourne and Adelaide that stop at Parkes.

Airport transfers to and from the site are by Taxi. Please specify on your web booking form if you require a taxi to be booked for you and the time you are arriving/departing. The cost of the taxi is Monday - Saturday $70.00 each way, including GST and $80.00 each way on Sundays, including GST - this cost will be charged back to visitors.

2.3.2.1 Travel via Air

Regional Express have daily flights between Sydney and Parkes using light aircraft. The Parkes airport is 5 kilometres east of the township. The flight, which costs about $280 for an adult return (with 21 days notice and including airport tax and GST), is cheaper if your flight to Parkes is included on an international airline ticket. It takes one hour for a direct flight and an hour and three quarters if stopping at Orange or Cudal on the way. Bookings can be made at any travel agent or the airline office. The telephone number for Regional Express Reservations is 13 17 13 (within Australia).

2.3.2.2 Train and Bus

NSW TrainLink operate a train out of Sydney which connects with a bus to Parkes at either Orange or Lithgow. The combined journey takes about eight hours. See their site for updated fares. Countrylink can be contacted on 13 22 32 (within Australia).

2.3.2.3 Travel by Car

The journey from Sydney to Parkes is 365 kilometres and takes nearly 5 hours. There is a choice of two scenic routes over the Blue Mountains; through Penrith to Katoomba and then to Lithgow, or through Windsor to Bell and then to Lithgow. If taking the Bell road head north-west out of Sydney through Baulkham Hills and the Windsor Road. To take the Katoomba road head west out of Sydney through Parramatta and then on to the freeway to Penrith. After Lithgow the route is through Bathurst, Orange, Manildra and then Parkes. It is essential to have a current drivers license acceptable in NSW to allow you to drive the CSIRO cars which are used at the Observatory. Note that NSW law requires all drivers to carry a valid driver’s license in English, or with an approved English translation (obtainable through the Australian Embassy before travelling). This will enable you to drive the site vehicles from the observers quarters to the 64-metre telescope (one kilometre each way). Bicycles provide an alternative means of transport. Traffic in Australia uses the left-hand side of the road. The limit on drink driving is 0.05.

2.4 Observatory Contact Details

The observatory can be contacted at the following address:

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Last updated by Stacy Mader on May 8, 2014