A long, long time ago (30 years - a long time in this day and age) in a suburb of Sydney not too far away, a group of men (in those days, women were not allowed to play technical games) with extraordinary vision built a radiotelescope. The Fleurs aperture synthesis radiotelescope comprised a number of dishes of "about sixteen feet" diameter arranged in the arms of a cross. For many years, this telescope did sterling work of the highest calibre - a major contributor to the twenty-year project of investigating the Magellanic Clouds and associated Magellanic Stream, to give only one example.
And then the fairy tale came to an abrupt end. The Australia Telescope at Narrabri came into being. Government policy stipulated that there was enough money for only one such telescope. So funding ceased and the Fleurs radiotelescope was no more. The dishes stood, forlorn and unloved. Radio photons reflected from the meshes onto the prime focus dipoles and turned into electrical energy, but there was no-one to listen. Many of the dishes wandered off, like elephants, to die. Their rusted remains may still be seen today, leaning like drunks against the rotted wooden fence in the great dish graveyard.
All of this was drawn to the attention of certain members of the ASNSWI. Like Dr Livingstone in Africa they rushed to the rescue. One magnificent specimen was carefully selected, dissected, transferred to Ilford and partly reassembled. And for the moment, that was all. A different breed of rosella now perched on the dish periphery and the sky was somewhat darker, but not much else had changed. A false start, apparently.
Then in 1998, following a successful proposal to restore the dish to a semblance of its former glory (and more importantly, the approval and allocation of a budget!), the great dish felt life stirring once again in its limbs. There was still no-one to listen to the focussed radio energy, but at least the area of focus had become a little sharper. And that is the end, not of the whole story, but of this introduction. The evolving story of the dishes transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan is now told in other pages.
|A general idea of the overall size and shape of the dish. The irregular shape of the outer circle is quite evident. The photo is taken looking west. This photo was taken before the main counterweight was replaced. Careful examination of the top right hand corner of the photo will reveal that one of the radial support arms is missing.||A close up of the mount, before the rust removal and cleaning, looking south west. The stub of the removed north east support arm can be seen. The aerial cable so prominent in this photo will not be used. Many other modifications have been made since this photo was taken.|