Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

Primary content

Bookmark

This gazette
Administered by: Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Published Date 10 Aug 2020

 

 

 

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

 

INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL HERITAGE LIST
OF

PARKES OBSERVATORY

 

I, Sussan Ley, Minister for the Environment, having considered in relation to the place and the National Heritage values described in the Schedule of this instrument:

 

(a)       the Australian Heritage Council's assessment whether the place meets any of the National Heritage criteria; and

 

(b)       the comments given to the Council under sections 324JG and 324JH of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; and

 

being satisfied that the place described in the Schedule has the National Heritage values specified in the Schedule, pursuant to section 324JJ of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, include the place and the specified National Heritage values in the National Heritage List.

 

 

 

Dated 

 

 

 

Sussan Ley

Minister for the Environment


SCHEDULE

 

NEW SOUTH WALES

Parkes

 

 

NAME:  Parkes Observatory

 

BOUNDARY:

Approximately 172ha, 18km North Northeast of Parkes on Telescope Road, being the area comprising the whole of New South Wales Land Parcel Lot 1 DP445477.

 


 

Criterion

Values

 

 

 

(a)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(f)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's importance in the course, or pattern, of Australia's natural or cultural history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

The Parkes Observatory is a place of outstanding value to the nation for its importance in the history of Australian astronomy.

Astronomy is an important cultural process in Australian history due to the way Australians have used astronomical research to understand the world around us. From the earliest times, humanity’s relationship with the night sky and space has given it a central role in our cultural heritage. People have sought to understand the world around them by interpreting the cosmos, and in doing so have grappled with both scientific and philosophical questions. The discipline of radio astronomy is a key element of this process. By studying space at radio frequencies that were previously inaccessible, radio astronomy in the twentieth century greatly expanded Australians’ understanding of the universe. Its discoveries contributed to explaining the origin and the shape of the expanding universe. Radio astronomy also contributed to the creation of technologies like WiFi and GPS.

This importance of astronomy in the course and pattern of Australian history is demonstrated by Parkes Observatory. Australia was an international leader in the ground-breaking field of radio astronomy research in the post-World War II period, as wartime technological advances in radiophysics combined with an expansion in Australian scientific research. Parkes Observatory was central to this period of Australian astronomy.

The idea of the Parkes telescope was conceived of by staff of the Radiophysics Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in the 1950s. Australian physicists such as Dr Taffy Bowden applied their wartime radiophysics knowledge to a new research-focused peacetime context. As the field of radio astronomy rapidly expanded, the decision to construct the telescope at Parkes was a reflection of the importance of astronomy in Australia’s scientific and cultural landscape.

The design of Parkes was led by Australian physicists with expert input from around the world. Innovative engineering and technological solutions allowed CSIRO to construct the largest single dish telescope dedicated to astronomy in the Southern hemisphere. The importance of the Observatory in Australian astronomy is also reflected in the way it has provided observations which have been key to discoveries of importance on a global scale, which shape our understanding of the world around us and therefore are relevant to Australians’ lives. For example, it has been used to undertake all-sky surveys and to identify celestial objects like quasars and pulsars which were, respectively, key pieces of evidence in establishing the Big Bang theory and testing Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Parkes Observatory was a model for a number of subsequent similar single-dish installations both in Australia and overseas, due to the success of its pioneering design. In addition, it laid the groundwork for Australia’s ongoing involvement in the field of radio astronomy, which continues to the present day. Updates to the Observatory’s technology have allowed the Observatory to remain significant in the practice of Australian astronomy, while other radio astronomy observatories in Australia build on Parkes’ legacy.

The Parkes Observatory also has outstanding heritage value to the nation for its association with the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

The Parkes Observatory played an important role in the television broadcast of the moon landing, which was watched by approximately 530 million people across the world. Australians were part of the global community for whom this event was an epochal moment, which represented humanity’s spirit of discovery and demonstrated the peak of mid-twentieth century scientific and engineering endeavour.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon on 21 July 1969 (AEST), and soon after their first steps, NASA switched to the Parkes Observatory signal to be the source of the majority of the two and a half hours of moonwalk footage that was broadcast to the world. The television broadcast of this is particularly significant to Australians because of its prominent role in community memory as a defining achievement of the twentieth century. A number of tracking stations were involved in the tracking and broadcast of the Apollo 11 mission; as the source of broadcast signals for the majority of the moonwalk, Parkes Observatory has a strong association with the moon landing because of the key role it played in the memorable television experience. This association was particularly strengthened with the release of “The Dish” in 2001, a film loosely based on the role of the Parkes Observatory in the moon landing.

The features that express these nationally important heritage values are the original main telescope at the Parkes Observatory, most significantly its form as a large single-dish radio telescope on its tower base. Functional upgrades that have occurred to the telescope since its original construction are consistent with its heritage significance. These features are important to demonstrating the significance of the Observatory in the history of Australian astronomy and its association with the Apollo 11 moon landing as the receiving dish for broadcast signals.

 

 

The Parkes Observatory is a place of outstanding value to the nation for its ability to demonstrate a high degree of technical achievement. The design and construction of the 64-metre main radio telescope at Parkes Observatory was an innovative engineering and scientific milestone in the post-war era, and ongoing adaptations and updates have allowed it to maintain this legacy as a leading scientific instrument.

The Parkes radio telescope was the first large single-dish telescope in Australia, as well as being one of the first large radio telescopes in the world. Its initial design and construction from 1954 to 1961 involved the invention of new technologies and techniques by CSIRO staff and engineers. The alt-azimuth mounting of the telescope allowed for a larger dish size to be constructed in an era where large radio astronomy dishes were pioneering technology. The creation of a novel guidance mechanism for the telescope dish to adjust this mounting allowed it to be controlled to a higher accuracy than other single-dish telescopes of the time, while the receivers built for the telescope allowed it to detect radiowaves at a wider range of frequencies and with more sensitivity than other telescopes. The Parkes telescope was used as a guide for other radio telescopes in Australia and internationally, with Parkes a model for large single-dish telescopes used in both radio astronomy and spacecraft tracking.

The technical achievements of the Observatory had impact on the field of astronomy in Australia as well as overseas. The high quality and number of scientific discoveries associated with the site are made possible by the scientific and technical design excellence of the telescope.

Elements of the Parkes telescope which made it a technical achievement at the time of its construction have been updated in a way which is consistent with the continuity of its heritage significance as new technologies develop. For example, in the decades since its construction new receivers and mesh surfacing have been installed. Such updates reflect the way in which the innovative original design and construction positioned the Observatory to be able to work from a basis of technical excellence when undertaking necessary updates that allow it to remain at the forefront of its field.

These values are expressed through the original main telescope at the Parkes Observatory, most significantly its form as a large single-dish radio telescope on its tower base, with the existence of receivers and a guidance system to control the telescope. Functional upgrades that have occurred to the telescope since its original construction are consistent with its heritage significance. These features are important to demonstrating Parkes Observatory’s nature as a technical and engineering achievement which functions as a world-leading piece of scientific equipment.