On a magnificent, drought-breaking day, the Federal Minister for Science, the Honourable Peter McGauran, visited the CSIRO's Parkes Observatory. The visit to the Parkes Radio Telescope was the final leg of a whirlwind 2-day tour starting at the ATNF's Narrabri Observatory, home of the Australia Telescope Compact Array, and then moving to the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Springs near Coonabarabran.
The Minister was accompanied by Mr Greg Evans, Chief of Staff of the Ministers Office, Ms Gemma Allman, Science Advisor, Ms Genevieve Poole, Departmental Liaison Officer and Mr George Shaw, Director Science Programs Branch. Accompanying them were Dr Ray Norris, Deputy Director of ATNF, Dr Michelle Storey of ATNF and LOFAR and Dr Brian Boyle, Director of the AAO.
Present also was Mr John Cobb MP, the member for the federal electorate of Parkes.
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Following a few welcoming words by Dr John Reynolds and Peter McGauran, a sumptuous lunch was had by all our guests.
Our visitors then were taken on a tour of the telescope. First up was a "hayride" on the dish.
On the ride up, Dr John Reynolds, Dr Lewis Ball and Dr Ray Norris described the details of the dish.
A quick search was made for a missing cricket ball, before Dr Lewis Ball showed the Minister and Mr Cobb the new panels that will be installed in March to upgrade the dish for support of the NASA spacecraft at Mars.
The Minister, accompanied by Gemma Allman and Genevieve Poole, ascended to the Focus Cabin to inspect the receivers. Of particular interest was the innovative HI Multibeam receiver, built by the ATNF and launched by the minister in 1997. While up there, the minister took the opportunity to survey the extent of the drought-breaking rain from the high vantage point. The minister then descended through the interior of the dish to the control room below.
The Minister discussed the research being conducted by two visiting astronomers, Dr Duncan Lorimer from Jodrell Bank in the UK, and with Mr Aidan Hotan of Swinburne University in Melbourne.
Following the control room, our visitors inspected the upgraded Visitors Discovery Centre, and viewed a show in the 3D theatre. They were met by Mr Rick Twardy, the manager of the Visitors Centre.
The Minister looked over the "whispering dishes", and concluded that it was not very suitable for Canberra since it makes it hard to keep secrets. He also, inspected a globe and found that Australian Radio Astronomy was appropriately "on top of the world".