Leading pulsar astronomer in Parkes to witness installation of new $2.5M receiver at Parkes Radio Telescope

SPECIAL: Dr Richard Manchester commissioned the 15-year-old receiver in 2003 and was one of the driving forces behind the new receiver.
SPECIAL: Dr Richard Manchester commissioned the 15-year-old receiver in 2003 and was one of the driving forces behind the new receiver.

It had been a number of years since Dr Richard Manchester was last in Parkes and he wasn’t about to miss the events that took place at the Parkes Radio Telescope on Tuesday.

The world leading pulsar astronomer began his career at the Dish 50 years ago, in February 1968.

One of the Western world’s leading radio astronomers and Parkes Observatory Director at the time, John Bolton, was the one who offered him the job.

Dr Manchester also programmed the Parkes laboratory’s first computer.

The installation of the new $2.5 million ultra-wide band receiver inside the Parkes telescope’s focus cabin was a special moment for Dr Manchester, who’s now 75.

Not only did he commission the old receiver that was being removed from the top of the telescope in 2003, he was also one of the driving forces behind the new receiver.

“Meet my two youngest children,” said Dr Manchester, who’s now retired and living in Sydney but still observing the skies from home.

He helped to load the new receiver onto a small truck and transport it to the base of the Dish, where it was harnessed and lifted to the top of the focus cabin.

“It’s very exciting...It’s great to see this new technology come forward,” Dr Manchester said.

He described the work behind the receiver as “absolutely brilliant”.

“It’s a very successful telescope,” he said.

“We have a world class team working on developing this telescope.”

The expertise behind the technology will also enable Australia to compete effectively into the era of the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope.

Swinburne engineers designed the data processor for the Parkes receiver using experience gained through the work for the Square Kilometre Array.

Among the exciting opportunities the new receiver provides is the telescope being open to scientists around the world.

“We have an open skies policy where scientists anywhere in the world can apply to use the telescope,” Dr Manchester said.

Applications are processed through a committee who decides on a select number of successful applicants.

Dr Manchester said a schedule is then created and scientists are allocated a time to use the telescope.

“With this new receiver, lots of people are waiting for it. There’s a lot of interest in using it,” he said.

Parkes’ operational scientist John Sarkissian, who’s been working at the Dish for 22 years, said the installation also marked the continuation of the study of pulsars that began with Dr Manchester all those years ago.