In 1988, then Prime Minister Bob Hawke opened the Australia Telescope Compact Array. This weekend we're inviting you to come along and celebrate the 25th anniversary with us.

In 1988, then Prime Minister Bob Hawke opened the Australia Telescope Compact Array*, calling it ‘a new era in Australia scientific research – the major Bicentennial science project’.

Today is officially the 25th anniversary of the Australia Telescope Compact Array opening.

At the time, the telescope was called the “scientific highlight of our bicentenary”. Today, thanks to technological upgrades and savvy design, the telescope remains at the forefront of global radio astronomy.

To celebrate the anniversary, here is a first-hand account of the Opening Ceremony, taken directly from the CSIROpedia article on the Compact Array.
The accompanying photos are taken from the image archive of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (then known as the Division of Radiophysics).

 

The ATCA Opening in 1988

2 September 1988 dawned bright and fair, but with a wind that could have blown the hair from a horse.

The Narrabri band played the theme from Star Wars to welcome the VIPs to the Opening Ceremony. (Credit: CSIRO archive)

The Narrabri band played the theme from Star Wars to welcome the VIPs to the Opening Ceremony.
(Credit: CSIRO archive)

With the Narrabri band playing the theme from Star Wars, an antenna trundled down the track to the ceremony, carrying a load of VIPs, including the then Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

Project Engineer John Brooks remarked to the PM’s wife, Hazel Hawke, that the PM must go to many of these ‘Opening do’s’ and she replied: “Not like this John, not like this.”

Project Engineer John Brooks remarked to the PM's wife, Hazel Hawke, that the PM must go to many of these 'Opening do's' and she replied: "Not like this John, not like this."  (Credit: CSIRO archive)

Project Engineer John Brooks remarked to the PM’s wife, Hazel Hawke, that the PM must go to many of these ‘Opening do’s’ and she replied: “Not like this John, not like this.”
(Credit: CSIRO archive)

Disembarking, the speakers were installed on the podium. They were: Neville Wran the Chairman of the CSIRO Board and former premier of NSW; Dr Barry Jones, the Federal Minister for Science; Bob Frater and the PM Bob Hawke.

Hair whipping around in the wind, voices blown away from the podium mikes, they spoke of vision and hard work. Frater was first: “Prime Minister, we have delivered.”

The telescope was declared open for business, then three antennas slowly tipped, spilling out streams of green and gold balloons that whirled away into the sky.

The telescope was declared open for business, then three antennas slowly tipped, spilling out streams of green and gold balloons that whirled away into the sky. (Credit: CSIRO archive)

The telescope was declared open for business, then three antennas slowly tipped, spilling out streams of green and gold balloons that whirled away into the sky. (Credit: CSIRO archive)

And after it was all over, there was, of course, a party. A big party.

Some way into it, a storm broke. When the floor of the outdoor marquee became sodden, the dancing shifted to the tabletops.

Outside, CSIRO photographer John Masterson waited patiently to capture the sign of heaven’s approval: a rainbow.

Rainbow above antennas of the Australia Telescope Compact Array.

Outside, CSIRO photographer John Masterson waited patiently to capture the sign of heaven’s approval: a rainbow. (Credit: CSIRO archive)

*The photo at the start of this post shows then Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the Opening Ceremony in 1988. It has been merged with a photo of visitors to our 2010 ATCA Open Day, in the middle of an antenna tour.