Australia’s Iconic Telescope Celebrates Indigenous Astronomy | Voice of America


SYDNEY – Australia’s most famous radio telescope that played a key role in the telecast of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 has received a new Aboriginal name. Known as “The Dish”, the telescope near Parkes in New South Wales, 380 kilometers west of Sydney, will also be called “Murriyang”, which means “Skyworld” in the local indigenous language.

The Parkes Observatory has three telescopes. All have been given new Aboriginal names in connection with the astronomical knowledge of the original inhabitants of Australia, whose stories of creation, known as Dreaming, are told by the stars.

The largest telescope, which has discovered hundreds of new galaxies and rapidly rotating neutron stars called pulsars, will also be known as “Murriyang” or “Skyworld”. The others have Aboriginal names meaning “Smart Eye” and “Smart Dish”.

Dr John Reynolds is the director of Australia Telescope National Facility, which is managed by the national science agency CSIRO.

“I think the bestowal of traditional names is very significant because it not only recognizes the traditional keepers of the earth where the telescopes are located, but highlights the link between the oldest science, astronomy and the world’s longest continuous civilization that has I’ve been practicing astronomy for generations. The new name for the familiar Parkes dish: the large 64 meters [dish] – is Murriyang, who represents the world of heaven in the Wiradjuri dream, “Reynolds said.

The names were chosen by the elders of Wiradjuri, who say it is one of their proudest moments.

Although used primarily for astronomical research, the Parkes telescope has a long history of contracts from international space agencies to track and receive data from spacecraft. In 2012, he helped monitor NASA’s Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface of Mars.

But perhaps his most famous mission was his part in receiving television signals on an important day in July 1969 during the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The story was made into a popular film “The Dish” in 2000, which helped solidify the facility’s legendary status in Australian science.

The telescope weighs 1,000 tons and only receives signals from space, but never sends them. It was officially inaugurated in October 1961.

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