On the Newell Highway in central NSW, about 365 km west of Sydney, Parkes is home to one of the world’s largest radio telescopes, which justifies the town's self-billing as the ‘gateway to the stars’.
The 64m, fully-steerable radio telescope dish, built 23km out of town by the CSIRO in 1961, created history when it helped identify the very first quasar while scientists were searching for the source of mysterious radio signals emanating from deep space.
The Astronomy Education and Visitor's Centre is open daily to explain the workings of the complex though absorbing, interactive displays. The centre also includes a library and The Invisible Universe, a superbly-crafted film, is screened regularly in the centre's 75-seat, air-conditioned theatrette.
The town originally laboured under the name of Busman's, but took on a new identity in the wake of a visit by the then NSW Premier, Sir Henry Parkes, in 1873. The town honours its namesake and Father of Federation through the Henry Parkes Museum and, of course, the history-making telescope.
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