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Learn about the history of the Parkes Telescope at Orange Regional Museum

By October 17, 2022Museum, News

Amazing stories of astronomy will be revealed when Orange Regional Museum hosts John Sarkissian OAM, Operations Scientist at CSIRO Parkes Radio Observatory.

ORM Talks: 61 years of the CSIRO Parkes Telescope will be held at 6pm on Friday 21 October in the Museum.

Inspired by the exhibition Mulaa Giilang: Wiradjuri stories of the night sky, which explores the ancient astronomy of First Nations people, the event will examine modern astronomy and the world-class science being performed at the telescope, affectionately known as ”The Dish”.

John Sarkissian OAM

John Sarkissian OAM in front of the CIRSCO Telescope.

Orange City Council Services Policy Committee Chair, Cr Melanie McDonell said this was a great opportunity to delve deeper into the world of astronomy.

“The Mulaa Giilang exhibition has given us a valuable insight into the Wiradjuri stories and imagery behind some of the most recognisable features of the night sky that have been handed down over tens of thousands of years,’’ Cr McDonell said.

“This event will offer a different perspective by sharing the cutting-edge research being conducted today and giving us a broader understanding of the universe that we live in. It will be fascinating to hear how observations of distant galaxies are carried out day and night, and what exploring the sky involves.”

The CSIRO’s 64-metre Parkes Radio Telescope was commissioned on 31 October 1961 as the most advanced radio telescope in the world, incorporating many new innovative design features.

Through its early discoveries it quickly became the leading instrument of its kind in the world and played a pivotal role in some of the most important moments in history, including as a receiving station for the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Today it is still arguably the finest, single-dish radio telescope in the world and is still doing world-class science, making discoveries that are shaping our understanding of the universe.

Mr Sarkissian will look at the reasons for the telescope’s success and longevity, and peer into the near future to see what may lie ahead for it.

Book your ticket to ORM Talks at Eventbrite

Tickets cost $15, which includes a glass of wine, grazing platters and an after-hours viewing of Orange Regional Museum’s exhibition Mulaa Giilang: Wiradjuri stories of the night sky.

Mulaa Giilang: Wiradjuri stories of the night sky exhibition will remain open until 6 November.
The Museum is open from 9am to 4pm every day and entry is free.


About John Sarkissian OAM

John Sarkissian OAM, is an Operations Scientist at the CSIRO Parkes Radio Observatory. His main responsibilities are the science operations at the radio telescope, and the support of remote astronomers with their observations. In addition, he is involved in pulsar research – an exciting field of radio astronomy.

John came to Parkes, in 1996, on an 11-month contract to support NASA’s Galileo Mission to Jupiter. He managed the daily Galileo spacecraft tracking operations at the observatory and performed 1/3 of the daily tracking duties. John has received NASA Group Achievement Awards for his work on “The Parkes Radio Telescope X-band Upgrade Task Team” in 2004, “The Huygens Probe Earth Detection Team” in 2005 and “The DSN-Parkes MSL EDL Support Team” in 2013. John has also received official NASA commendations for his Galileo support in 1997 and for the search of the missing Apollo 11 SSTV tapes, from Neil Armstrong, in 2010. From 2018-19, John managed the Parkes Voyager 2 tracking operations, as the spacecraft crossed the heliopause and moved into interstellar space.

John is a member of the ATNF Science Operations Team which provides the front-line support for the CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) telescopes. Since 2020, John has been the Lead Engineer in CSIRO’s Commercial Ground Station Support Program, helping to deliver CSIRO services to NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Service (CLPS) providers.

Since 2003, John has been a member of the small, informal team searching for the missing Apollo 11 slow-scan TV tapes. From 1998-1999, John acted as a technical advisor for the feature film, “The DISH”.

In June 2016, John received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for “services to astronomy”. John is now in the 26th year of his 11-month contract.

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