Today was an open day at UTAS – University of Tasmania. The university is fortunate to own it’s own radio telescope, which was donated by NASA.
The telescope was originally located near Canberra and was part of NASA’s satellite and spacecraft tracking network. When NASA rationalised is global operations in the 1980’s, the telescope was dismantled and moved to the Coal Valley in Tasmania.
We were able to walk right around the telescope, see the equipment in use to monitor and record the data captured by the dish. Even though the telescope itself and some of the equipment is fifty years old, it is in full time use. Today it was tracking a pulsar and we heard the radio sound.
It was an excellent family day, with activities for kids of all ages, 3D movies, face painting, rocket making and launching, We joined a free tour of the site. The local astronomy group had a few telescopes set up for visitors to safely look at the sun. There were food and drink stalls in the grounds.
The site is also the home to a small museum dedicated to the world’s first radio astronomer – Grote Reber, who spent the later part of his life working in Tasmania. It was a fascinating and free day out. And it provided an ideal subject for the weekly photo challenge – from all angles.
Here is some techie stuff about this radio telescope.
The 26 metre telescope is at latitude 42 48′ 18” S, longitude 147 26′ 21” (east of Greenwich) and is 43 m above sea level. The telescope is equipped with a variety of receivers which operate between 660 MHz and 22 GHz. The large number of available receivers makes the telescope suitable for a variety of research projects within the University and its location makes it a vital element in the Australian Long Baseline Array (LBA) VLBI network.
Telescopes in Australia have played important roles in worldwide astronomy collaborations over the decades. Most notably during the Apollo 11 mission when signals were received at Parkes radio telescope and at Honey Suckle Creek. Initial minutes of the television broadcast of the moon landing on 20th July 1969 originated from Australia.