Our tour was scheduled to depart from the University of Sydney at 8AM. At first I was a little taken aback at the demographics of the group assembled for the tour. My intrepidation can be seen in the tweets made while waiting for the bus to depart.

Average age of fellow #dishtour travellers seems to be about 60. Aging geeks abound. 7:38 AM Nov 19th, 2009

I needn’t have been worried however because the people on the tour turned out to be an interesting and entertaining group. As the nights progressed the conversations became more and more engaging. Interacting with the other group members was actually one of the highlights of the tour for me.

Lunch stop in Orange

We drove west out of Sydney. After a brief rest stop at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains we stopped at Orange for lunch where I was more than impressed with the selection of meat offered by the pub.

The steak selection at this pub in Orange is far better than my local butcher has to offer: http://twitpic.com/q1uiz #dishtour 12:25 PM Nov 19th, 2009

Quality selection of steak in a pub in Orange, NSW

Quality selection of steak in a pub in Orange, NSW

After lunch we continued our journey west towards the Parkes Radio Telescope.

Parkes Radio Telescope

The Parkes Observatory, is a 64-metre Telescope used for Radio Astronomy. Yes, this is “The Dish” as featured in the movie of the same name. It’s an inspiring structure that sits in an unassuming sheep paddock about 20km North of the town of Parkes in central NSW.

Parkes Radio Telescope

Parkes Radio Telescope

We were taken on a tour through the entire facility. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to walk (or play cricket) on the dish itself.

Just went on a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Parkes radio telescope: http://twitpic.com/q2uon #dishtour 5:46 PM Nov 19th, 2009

Inside the control room of the Parkes radio telescope: http://twitpic.com/q2uxb #dishtour Our tour guide: http://twitpic.com/q2v1z 5:50 PM Nov 19th, 2009

The Astronomers Room at Parkes Radio Telescope

The Astronomers Room at Parkes Radio Telescope

Inside the Parkes Radio Telescope

Inside the Parkes Radio Telescope

Atomic Clock at the Parkes Radio Telescope

Atomic Clock at the Parkes Radio Telescope

Did you know that “The Dish” was built at exactly 33 degrees south to make it easier for boffins with their slide rule calcs? #dishtour 5:53 PM Nov 19th, 2009

The modern computers and the atomic clock on the wall are a far cry from the paper and slide-rules originally used to aim the dish.

Whiteboard inside Parkes Radio Telescope

Whiteboard inside Parkes Radio Telescope

An Evening in Parkes

Later that night we looked at the moons of Jupiter through a replica of the telescope Galileo used 400 years ago. It was amazing that even through this relatively primative scope we were able to clearly make out the disc of Jupiter and the four “Galilean moons“, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Replica Galilean Telescope

Replica Galilean Telescope

Watching a man dressed as Galileo explain the minute details of his replica 400 year old telescope #dishtour 9:18 PM Nov 19th, 2009

Beyond The Dish Tour Group in Parkes

Beyond The Dish Tour Group in Parkes

If you’re interested in making your own replica Galilean telescope I managed to find some detailed instructions on how to do it.

Continue to Day 2 of the Beyond The Dish Tour