Tour The Dish

This page is archive material

As an operating facility it is not practical to normally offer public tours of the telescope. Public tours are only offered at open days. If you can't make these dates you can get a close look at the telescope at the visitors centre and dish cafe, open every day except Christmas and Boxing Days. Any enquiries should be directed to

Parkes Observatory Open Days
Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 September 2007

The Dish by The Dish, Parkes Observatory Open Days [Photo of the Parkes telescope at twilight with orange and red stripe across the bottom]

Our Open Days are a rare opportunity for members of the public to tour the Parkes radio telescope. We're confirming new activities and displays each day but the main activities are:

  • Free telescope tours from 9:00am to 4:00pm each day.
  • Saturday evening screening of The Dish by The Dish.
  • Helicopter scenic flights around the telescope.
  • Ask an Expert: Astronomers and technical experts will answer your questions.
  • See the site of our new antenna for testing equipment for future radio telescopes.
  • Special displays about our new telescope in Western Australia and astronomy done by the Parkes telescope.
  • Talks by Astronomers and Engineers about the telescope and astronomy throughout each day.
  • Community Market featuring local craft, animal displays and children's activities by community groups.
  • ABC Local Radio Central West will be broadcasting from the observatory on Saturday morning.
The Parkes Observatory. The Observatory is on the Newell Hwy, 20km north of Parkes, 100km south of Dubbo, which is approximately 380 kilometres west of Sydney. Follow the signs to the Parkes radio telescope visitors centre.
Weekend of 22 and 23 September 2007.

Telescope Tours

  • The telescope tours run continuously over the two days. Bookings are not neccessary.
  • The tour takes you through the tower, around the azimuth track at the top of the tower, up into the telescope structure and back down through the middle.
  • The telescope will be operating during the tours.
  • The tour involves steep steps and is unsuitable for people with an aversion to heights.
  • For safety reasons people of limited mobility, including toddlers and babies needing to be carried, will only be able to do part of the tour.
  • For safety reasons appropriate (enclosed) footwear MUST be worn during the tour. Open footware such as thongs, sandals, high heels and bare feet are not acceptable. Visitors without suitable footwear will not be able to take the tour.

The Dish by The Dish

What better way to enjoy this classic Australian movie than under the stars and in the company of possibly the biggest movie star in history-the CSIRO Parkes radio telescope? On Saturday evening, from 6:30pm we will screen The Dish in the sheep paddock by The Dish. Don’t worry-it has been a few years since sheep left anything behind in this paddock. Bring blanket, food and drink. The dish cafe will be serving pies and drink while members of the Central West Astronomical Society will be there with their optical telescopes to give visitors a closer look at the night sky. In the few days before the open days the temperature at the observatory this time of evening has ranged from 7 to 17 degrees so remember to wear something warm. This was a popular highlight of our Open Days in 2001 so we thought we'd play it again.

Helicopter scenic flights

A highlight of the last Open Days were Helicopter scenic flights by Heliservices Newcastle and Hunter. They will be back again with their five-seat Bell Jetranger 206B Helicopter. Passengers will get a comprehensive overfly of The Dish and surrounding areas with aerial views through to Parkes. Flights are $50 per passanger. Parkes Observatory is in restricted airspace so that aircraft do not interfere with the sensitive observations, which makes this a great opportunity. Flights will operate from about 10:00am to 5:00pm on Saturday and from about 8:00am to 4:00pm on the Sunday. If you have any special requests or require any further information please contact Sonia on 0249 625188,, OR Steve on 0408 938700 or visit Download Scenic Flight Flier (PDF, 82kb)

Community Market

We’ve invited other local tourist attractions and community groups to set up displays and stalls in the sheep paddock. Some of the confimed attendees:

Alpaca Country Shop & Tourist Centre
Alpaca Country will have several Alpacas and a display where visitors will have an opportunity to observe and feel the unique properties of this “fibre of the gods”. If you can't see them at the Telescope Open Days they are open Thursday to Sunday at the Alpaca Country Shop & Tourist Centre on the Newell Hwy south of Parkes. They have developed into an education centre where people can learn about the alpaca industry as a whole You are able to see the whole process with shearing demonstrations (at certain times of the year). The carding and spinning of the fleece, the dying and processing either by weaving or felting to the finished handcrafted and commercial products. These can be purchased and visitors love that the products that are locally made and Australian. Visit or email

Morse code in action
Volunteers from the Morsecodians Fraternity and Telstra Museum Bankstown will demonstrate the use of morse code in early communications. Visitors will be able to send Telegrams for a small charge of $2.00 to anywhere in Australia, or $3.00 overseas. The telegrams will be sent by morse code from the observatory to destinations within Australia, received on specially printed stationery and posted by surface mail to their destination in a special envelope.

NSW State Emergency Service
A display by volunteers and staff from local State Emergency Service units will include a rescue vehicle and flood rescue boat. Special guest Paddy Platypus will also be along to help spread the storm safe message. SES Storm Safe Week runs from 24 to 30 September and the SES will have plenty of tips on how to keep people and property safe during floods and storms. Information about volunteering with the SES to help your community will also be available.


Check out some of these great talks in theatre one of the visitors centre. Australia is at the top of Radio Astronomy game thanks to talented Engineers, Scientists and staff who create and use great instruments like Parkes telescope. That is sure to continue with new radio telescopes in Australia on the horizon.

Time Title Presenter
Sat 11:00am Probing the Unseen Universe: Astronomy and Radio Astronomy in Australia Mr Rob Hollow, Education Officer, CSIRO ATNF
Sat 1:00pm Interferometry: How Radio Astronomers Invented the Network Dr John Reynolds, Officer in Charge Parkes Observatory, CSIRO ATNF
Sat 3:00pm Tales of hydrogen in the Milky Way

Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths, Science Leader, CSIRO ATNF

Sun 11:00am The future of radio astronomy in Australia Dr Lewis Ball, Deputy Director, CSIRO ATNF
Sun 1:00pm Dishing up the data: Parkes and Space Missions Mr John Sarkissian, Operations Scientist Parkes Observatory, CSIRO ATNF

The Future of radio astronomy in Australia
Dr Lewis Ball, Deputy Director, CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
Australia is a world leader in the science of astronomy, and has unique environmental advantages that make it one of the best sites in the world for radio astronomy. Lewis will give a brief outline of the exciting future developments, including upgrades to the existing facilities at Parkes, Coonabarabran and Narrabri, a new $100M facility which CSIRO is building in Western Australia, and Australia's role in developing and possibly hosting the Square Kilometre Array - one of the biggest international science projects for the next 20 years.

Dishing up the data: Parkes and Space Missions
Mr John Sarkissian, Operations Scientist, CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
The recent Australian film, The Dish, highlighted the role played by the Parkes radio telescope in tracking and communicating with the Apollo 11 mission. However, the events depicted in this film represent only a single snapshot of the role played by Parkes in the exploration of the Solar System by NASA. As the fledgling Deep Space Network was being established in the early 1960's, one of the world’s major radio telescope facilities was being built at Parkes, in western New South Wales, Australia. This 64-metre diameter dish, designed and operated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), was well-suited for deep space tracking work: its design was in fact, the inspiration for the 64-metre dishes of the Deep Space Network. From Mariner 2 in 1962 to Huygens at Titan in 2005, the Parkes radio telescope has been contracted by NASA on many occasions to support interplanetary spacecraft. The highlight of the NASA support was its critical role in several of the Apollo lunar landing missions, especially Apollo's 11 and 13. This talk will outline the role played by Parkes in these historic missions and its relationship with the stations in the Deep Space Network.

ABC Outside Broadcast

Bruce Reynolds from ABC Central West radio will be broadcasting from the Observatory Open Days on the Saturday morning. Listen in from 6am to 10am or watch on in the last hour and a half at the Ask an Expert tent.

Very Unlikely Wet Weather Plans

Fine weather with light winds and maximums of low 20s are forecast for the weekend. We're torn between wanting fine clear days for the Open Days and soaking rain for the area's crops. Inclement weather at our last Open Days in 2004 didn't seem to deter visitors from touring the telescope. If it rains this year we may cancel the evening screening of The Dish and some market stalls may be affected but the Tours of the Telescope and most displays will continue. For safety heavy rains may mean changing the tour route or suspending them at times. You can see the current weather at the Observatory by looking at our web cam or checking our weather station and links.

Open Day Poster & Flier

Do you know a workplace, club etc that should have a poster about the open days up somewhere? If so you can download the following colour A4 poster or A5 flier from our website to print out. There are also two different A3 posters available to those with good quality colour printing. Email if you would like an A3 poster.

Download colour A4 poster from (PDF, 1.75MB)

Download A5 size black and white flier from (PDF, 223kB)

A thumbnail image of the A4 Open Day PosterA thumbnail image of the A4 Open Day Poster
AVIC logo: Yellow i on blue backgroundParkes Shire Council Logo
Credit: Accredited Visitor Information Centres & Parkes Shire Council

Accommodation and Other Attractions

If traveling to Parkes for the Open Days, Parkes Visitor Information Centre would love to help you further plan your trip by providing you with information regarding accommodation in Parkes and Peak Hill, and also supplying you with maps and information about other great attractions and services in our region. Phone: 1800 624 365 or (02) 6863 8860, visit or email

If you can't make it to the open days the visitors centre and dish cafe at the telescope is open every day except Christmas and Boxing days though tours of the telescope are only available on the open days.

More Information

More information will be added here as it is confirmed. You can get the latest Open Day News by joining our email list by sending an email to with subscribe Parkes-observatory-open-day-information in the body of the message. Further questions to the telescope visitors centre 02 6861 1777 or

You can see the latest email to the update list here.