Ireland's Big Dish: Elfordstown Earthstation, Cork
A New Future for an Historic Icon
A Valuable GLOBAL ASSET
With a radius of 32 meters, rotation of 540 degrees, and a weight of 220 tonnes, The Big Dish is one of only seven remaining dishes of it’s kind in the world. It is the only one currently available for refitting for a new scientific future.
An Astronomical fundraiser
A Unique History
Opened in 1984, The Big Dish was constructed by Bord Telecom to carry telephone calls between America and Ireland via satellite. In 1997, it was made redundant by new transatlantic optical fibre cables.
The Elfordstown Earthstation site was taken over by National Space Centre in 2010 and The Big Dish was briefly revived as a radio astronomy telescope before a mechanical failure forced it offline. Since then it has served as a film set, a training example for engineering students, the centrepiece of an annual space festival, and a beacon of solidarity with Ukraine.
A NEW FUTURE
Remedial preservation work on The Big Dish is urgently needed to preserve it in the present and ready it for the future. A dish that once connected Ireland and America can connect Earth to the Moon, to Mars, or to the far reaches of our cosmos. With a total overhaul cost of €5M, the Dish can be brought into service for less than 15% of the €34M cost of building a comparable dish today.
The Moon has once again become a focal point for space exploration. Around the world, space agencies and private enterprises are actively planning and launching missions to the Moon. These missions encompass a wide range of objectives, but each requires a global network to support communications. With refitting of modern communications hardware, The Big Dish would become a valuable part of ground communications for lunar missions.
The recent successes of Martian rovers like Perseverance and the growing interest in Mars as a potential destination for human colonization have ignited a new wave of enthusiasm and investment in Martian exploration. Multiple space agencies, including NASA, ESA, and others are actively planning and executing missions to Mars. With a technology refit, The Big Dish can provide real-time communication between Mars and Earth for future Martian missions.
Radio telescopes are parabolic dishes used to observe and study celestial objects and events. They allow astronomers to gather information about stars, galaxies, and pulsars, as well as exciting phenomena such as signals of unknown origin and Fast Radio Bursts. Refurbished as a radio telescope, The Big Dish would be an incredible tool for Irish researchers in both academic institutions, and for international partners as part of a global array of dishes working in concert.
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