The public was invited to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Parkes telescope with open days organised on the weekend of the 3-4 November. The weekend was an outstanding success, with over 2,500 people visiting the facility.
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Over 1,600 people took the opportunity to clamber about the telescope. They were able to see how and where astronomers work, while the telescope was actually being used for pulsar observations at the time.
Helicopter Joy Flights
Dubbo Helicopters provided the opportunity for visitors to fly around the telescope for a modest fee. It was a very popular activity with ninety sorties being flown over the weekend. A lucky pair of students from Parkes, Dani Thomas and Alyssia Murray, enjoyed a flight as winners of a drawing competition organised by Julia Hocking.
"The DISH" at the dish
On the Saturday evening, the film "The DISH" was screened in the sheep paddock adjacent to the telescope. Over 500 people attended the special screening, with many families enjoying a picnic under the stars. Marcus Price's old horn antenna was used as the screen support. The show began with a special screening of a John Bolton interview about Apollo 11. Towards the climax of the film, the Moon appropriately began to rise just behind the 60 ft. telescope right on cue. The weather was perfect and everyone present thoroughly enjoyed the event.
The final day
Sunday saw even more people visit the dish. The tours attracted many who had travelled from as far afield as Melbourne and Adelaide. Local State MP, Mr Tony McGrane, was one of the many visitors. Also visiting was Mr James Murphy. James was one of the workers who had laid the original mesh panels onto the dish way back in 1961. Dr John Reynolds took him on a personal, VIP tour of the telescope and dish surface. It was the first time in 40 years that James had been back to "his" dish.
An information marquee had been setup to provide the public the opportunity to speak to experts in radio astronomy and to view displays about the history of the Parkes Telescope. The re-created control desk from the film "The DISH" was a popular talking point. Popular also, was the UWS SETI Southern SERENDIP display manned by Frank Stootman and Carol Oliver. The Parkes Staff Club organised the barbeques, with many family members helping out. Over 1000 steak, sausage and rissole sandwiches were sold as well as over 1000 drinks.
The volunteers and staff were exhausted by the end of the weekend. However, as true ATNFers they knew how to relax at the end of it all.