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Parkes gears up for another 45 years

CSIROÂ’s Parkes telescope, which turned 45 in October, is getting a new lease on life this week with the replacement of some of its drive gears.

The new gears replace the ones fitted to the telescope when it was built in the late 1950s.

Mr Brian Wilcockson, Site Services Engineer for CSIROÂ’s Australia Telescope National Facility, says the work is preventative maintenance.

“The gears were starting to show wear three or four years ago, and we decided to step in early,” Mr Wilcockson says.

The new gears were made by Western Australian firm Hofmann Engineering Pty Ltd.

“Fortunately we still had the original construction drawings, which came from a German company,” says Mr Wilcockson.

“Hofmann has a German background, so the notes on the drawings were no problem for them!”

The six new gears range in size from 600mm diameter to 1200mm, the largest weighing about a tonne. They are attached to the rollers that make the telescope turn in the horizontal plane.

“The rollers support the weight of the telescope,” Mr Wilcockson says. “The gears are part of that whole assembly.”

Rather than jacking up the telescope and taking off the gearboxes, the engineers will remove the gears from inside the gearboxes while the gearboxes are still on the telescope.

The old gears are expected to come out on Thursday 30 November and the new gears to go in the next day. However, the timing may change as work progresses.

The Parkes telescope is one of the worldÂ’s most productive. A recent US study found that, for the period surveyed, in a group of more than 20 ground-based radio telescopes worldwide, Parkes produced the third-highest number of scientific papers and received the second-highest number of citations. (1)

(1) Virginia Trimble and Paul Zaich, “Productivity and Impact of Radio Telescopes.” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 118: 933–938, June 2006.

Added by Helen Sim on 2006-11-29

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