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A tour of the Parkes radio telescope (1979)

A tour of the Parkes radio telescope (1979)


[Beeping sound] [Birds calling] (Dr Jon Ables) Well here we are
at the Parkes Radio Telescope, today one of the foremost instruments
in the world for radio astronomy. It’s a big dish 64
metres in diameter and it can turn and tilt
to scan the entire sky. [Music plays] With it tipped over to the ground like
it is now we can step right aboard. Come with me and I’ll
show you how it works. OK, Bob take the
telescope to the zenith. [Music plays] The radio waves from space striking
the surface of the big dish here are reflected and focused to a
spot directly over my head. There’s the aerial cabin where the
sensitive receiving gear is placed. Well here we are on the
focal platform itself. Below us there’s nothing
but the big dish itself. The radio waves are focused
right to this platform. I’m looking onto the dish
and I know full well that the radio waves
from distant galaxies and quasars and pulsars are being
focused right into my face but I don’t feel a thing. The reason is that these waves
are extraordinarily weak and that’s what we need
this receiver for. It’s a very sensitive amplifier which amplifies the signal
about a million times. The signal passes through a hole,
not the one I’m looking through, but a hole here in the
centre and up through these pipes and
into the receiver. From there it’s sent down
cables to the radio room which is in the tower supporting
the dish itself below us. [Music plays] We’re back on the ground again just outside the supporting
tower of the telescope. It has three levels but we’ll pick up
our radio signal on the first floor. We’re now on the first floor of the
supporting tower of the telescope and this room which is often
called the radio room is filled with equipment to
further amplify the weak signal that was sent down by the
cable from the aerial cabin. The signal which was already
amplified by a million times in the aerial cabin is increased
in strength again a million times. And finally a million
million times stronger than when it came from
space into the telescope it is ready to be sent to
the control room above us for final recording
and analysis. Now in the control
room the signal generally is passed
first to this machine. The purpose of this machine
is to break the radio signal into its component parts very much like a prism breaks
white light into its colours and this machine works
with our digital computer. The digital computer finally
presents the result as a graph. [printer working] And here’s the digital computer and
in front of it the radio astronomer. These days to be a
radio astronomer often means that you have to be a
computer operator as well. How’s it going Alan? (Alan) Well we’ve got a
possible detection on 273 but I think we’ll have to
leave it for today. I think we’ll go over to 2142. Frank, could we go to
2142 minus 75 please? (Frank) OK. (Dr Jon Ables) And that was the
astronomer telling our telescope driver to move the telescope
to the next source in the sky that he
wishes to observe. [Beeping sounds] [Music plays] (Frank) You’re on source Alan. (Dr Jon Ables) The
observations of the heavens with the radio telescope
continue night and day and the information collected
appearing mostly as graphs, charts, tables flows out
continuously but eventually it is in the mind of the
radio astronomer himself that the picture of the
universe must form. The radio telescope serves only
to extend the senses of man deeper into the heavens
to find out how it works and what our place is in it. ( Male) Well what
do you reckon Paul? (Paul) I think we should do 0922 minus
51 with a ten second integration marker. (Male) Yes, but you’ll have to
reload the tape again first. (Paul) Yeah, OK. [Music plays]

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