The Fleurs Radio Telescope Site | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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The Fleurs Radio Telescope Site

Item details

Name of item: The Fleurs Radio Telescope Site
Other name/s: Fleurs Farm
Primary address: 885(a) Mamre Road, Kemps Creek, NSW 2178
Local govt. area: Penrith
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
885(a) Mamre RoadKemps CreekPenrith  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Used from 1954 until 1988 for astronomical research, the Fleurs Telescope site was in the 1950s considered to be one of the world’s leading radio astronomy field stations. At its peak it included telescopes developed by with a number of important astronomers including Bernie Mills, creator of the Mills Cross, Alex Shain, creator of the Shain Cross and Dr W. N. Christiansen, creator of the Chris Cross and a Professor at the University of Sydney. The series of telescopes constructed on the site in a short period were of great importance to the advance of radio astronomy. Much of the equipment was considered important enough to be relocated elsewhere for future research.

While most of the equipment has been removed from the Fleurs Telescope site, there is sufficient remaining equipment, including structure for the Mills and Shain telescopes, bases of the Chris Cross telescopes and two dishes of the Fleurs Synthesis telescope, to allow for further investigation and interpretation.

Fleurs Telescope Site is a rare if not unique example of a site used for astronomical research in the Penrith Local Government Area.
Date significance updated: 15 Sep 08
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Construction years: 1954-1964
Physical description: The Fleurs Telescope site is located between South Creek and Kemps Creek. A scattering of evidence of the series of telescopes that once operated on the site remains.

The first of the telescopes was the Mills Cross, built in 1954. It had north-south and east-west arrays of dipoles in a cross formation with wire mesh reflector. Some of the metal frames and wire mesh of the eastern arm of this array survives.

The second telescope was the 1956 Shain Cross formed by dipoles slung between timber posts (similar to telegraph posts). Many of the posts on the north-south alignment of the Shain Cross survive.

The third major telescope on the site was the 1957 Chris Cross, an array of 32 5.8 metre diameter parabolic dishes. None of these dishes survive, although some concrete footings are visible in the grass.

After the 1950s telescopes on the site had fallen into disuse, research on the site was revived by the erection of six 13.7 metre Synthesis telescopes at the ends of the earlier arrays. Two of these survive, one at the north end of the Shain Cross and one beyond the west end of the Chris Cross.

Near the junction of the two arms of the Mills Cross is a single storey gabled building clad with compressed fibrous cement sheeting with a roof of corrugated steel with roll top ridge capping. It has paired double hung windows, shaded by bracketed awnings on the north side.

Near the junction of the two arms of the Chris Cross is a single storey building with a multiple gabled roof. It is clad with compressed fibrous cement sheeting and has a roof of corrugated steel with roll top ridge capping. Windows are paired double hung sashes. To its east is a gabled weatherboard building with a corrugated steel roof and double hung windows.

Between the eastern arms of the Mills Cross and the Chris Cross are two single storey buildings clad with compressed fibrous cement sheeting and with roofs of corrugated steel with roll top ridge capping. The windows are casement sashes.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
While the condition of the remaining equipment on the site is poor, there is potential to record and interpret the surviving elements.
Date condition updated:15 Sep 08
Modifications and dates: 1954 Mills Cross
1956 Shain Cross
1957 Chris Cross
1964? Fleurs Synthesis Telescopes
Current use: Unused
Former use: Radio Telescope

History

Historical notes: Fleurs Radio Telescope station was established in 1954 to erect an innovative type of telescope known as the Mills Cross. The Mills Cross telescope was used by Bernie Mills, Eric Hill and Bruce Slee between 1954 and 1957 to carry out a detailed survey of radio emissions in the sky. The site for the telescope was near a disused WWII airstrip.

It was again used between 1961 and 1963 by Bruce Slee and visiting Cambridge radio astronomer, Peter Sheuer to carry out an interferometric sky survey of the MSH sources.

A second telescope on the site, the Shain Cross was completed in 1956. It was used by its creator Alex Shain to carry out a survey of the galactic plane and monitor decametric burst emission from Jupiter.

The third telescope at Fleurs was the Chris Cross, an array of 32 parabolic dishes designed by Dr W N Christiansen and completed in 1957. An 18m prefabricated American parabola was added to the eastern end of the Chris Cross in 1959. It was relocated to Parkes in 1963.

With the removal of the 18m parabola, the CSIRO no longer used the Fleurs site and it was transferred to the University of Sydney. Dr W. N. Christiansen was at that time a Professor at the University and further developed his telescope. Under the School of Engineering, the station continued to contribute to radio astronomy.

After 1988, the site was leased to the Engineering Faculty at the University of Western Sydney. Problems of interference from two way radios and mobile telephone made use of the equipment difficult and use of the telescopes effectively ceased in 1991. During this period the condition of all the telescopes deteriorated. All that remained in 2002 were the twelve centrally-located Chris Cross aerials, the Mills Cross equipment having been relocated to Bungendore. The site was cleared of any remaining equipment in 2005-6 including telescopes that were donated to the CSIRO to be re-erected at their Epping site. The site is currently agisted for cattle grazing.

During the period of use by the CSIRO, the Fleurs Radio Telescope Station was considered to be “one of the world's leading radio astronomy field stations, and it played an important role in furthering solar and non-solar radio astronomy”. (Orchison and Slee)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Science-Activities associated with systematic observations, experiments and processes for the explanation of observable phenomena (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Used from 1954 until 1988 for astronomical research, the Fleurs Telescope site was in the 1950s considered to be one of the world’s leading radio astronomy field stations. Its series of telescopes constructed in a short period were of great importance to the advance of radio astronomy. Much of the equipment was considered important enough to be relocated elsewhere for future research.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Fleurs Telescope site is associated with a number of important astronomers including Bernie Mills, creator of the Mills Cross, Alex Shain, creator of the Shain Cross and Dr W. N. Christiansen, creator of the Chris Cross and a Professor at the University of Sydney.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
While most of the equipment has been removed from the Fleurs Telescope site, there is sufficient remaining equipment, including structure for the Mills and Shain telescopes, bases of the Chris Cross telescopes and two dishes of the Fleurs Synthesis telescope, to allow for further investigation and interpretation.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Fleurs is a rare if not unique example of a site used for astronomical research in the Penrith Local Government Area. The use of the site and the sequence of equipment erected there is probably rare in New South Wales.
Integrity/Intactness: Most of the equipment has been dismantled and relocated. Surviving structures would allow for some interpretation.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanPenrith LEP 201083222 Sep 10   
Heritage study 226083201 Nov 07   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Penrith Heritage Study Supplementary Items2008KC-06Hubert Architects Pty LtdPamela Hubert Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Mills Cross Telescope
Oral HistoryDavid Bennett, Porfolio Property Manager, University of Sydney2008Telephone interview with Pamela Hubert 16.8.08
Management PlanWayne Orchiston and Bruce Slee2002The flowering of Fleurs: an interesting interlude in Australian radio astronomy

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2260832


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