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Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #36 – Compact Array, Narrabri, NSW

Radio Telescope #1, Australia Telescope Compact Array, via Narrabri, New South Wales

The future of Southern Hemispheric radio astronomy was in my hands, at least for the next 30 minutes or so. 

Is that a telescope I see before me?  Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri
The staggering advances in technology that channel radio signals from deep, DEEP space through the 6-Dish Australia Telescope Compact Array working together to simulate a much larger antenna were apparently not quite advanced enough to drown out the rather weak signal emitted by my mobile phone.

Strangely appealing though the thought of death by Optus* was to whatever radio signal data was filtering its lonely way across the aeons of light years separating earth from the nebulae and galaxies behind the sheltering sky above, I made an uncharacteristic decision to play nice.

I switched the mobile off. Danged thing wasn't receiving a signal anyway.

And, more importantly, who knew if any of the ~400 astronomers who use the Compact Array and other Australian radio telescopes each year were lurking over in the unmistakeably government-issue buildings behind me?

The sinking sun silhouetted five of the massive parabolic dishes, each 22 metres (~72 feet) in diameter and weighing 270 tonnes, against the clear evening sky. They could just as easily have been in a different configuration anywhere along the 3 km (1.86 miles) of track separating them from the 6th dish, fixed in position at its western end.

Five!  Count 'em,FIVE!!  Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri, New South Wales

I lined them up for a full-frontal Compact Array shot. Sweet.

Yes, size DOES matter!

But the thrill of nailing a rare** 5-dishes-in-a-Compact-Array-at-the-end-of-the-universe shot ALMOST distracted me from the unobtrusive white structure between the Car Park and the Visitor Centre.

Australia Telescope Compact Array Visitor Conveniences, via Narrabri, New South Wales

Way back in the dim, distant past when this blog was taking its first uncertain steps towards the fame and fortune that still eludes it, I naively dubbed Scenic Public Toilet #4 'The Little Public Toilet at the End of the Universe'.

But ... I was wrong.

Even if it does resemble a moonscape, how can a remote Outback spot compete with an obscure New South Wales location in the Namoi Valley's agricultural belt near Narrabri in the ancient and mystical land of OZ on an unimportant planet in an off-the-beaten-track galaxy hidden in an out-of-the-way corner of the universe??

View from the Australia Telescope Compact Array Loo!  via Narrabri, New South Wales

Putting aside all thoughts of black holes – and other unsavoury astronomic phenomena – I couldn't help appreciating the contrast between the symbols of humanity's lowly response to nature's call and the ultimate pinnacle of humanity's search for meaning in the universe.

Compact Array Loo and friend ...
As the afternoon light faded and the stars began to appear, we left the Compact Array Visitor Centre for nearby Narrabri.

And I turned my mobile back on.

* An Australian mobile phone network carrier
** Well, do YOU have one??

Read MORE:

Sunset at the Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri, New South Wales


  1. Red, greatly enjoyed your post today. Thank you for the big smile this morning. When we begin to look at what is out in deep space we realize what a "Goldilocks" place our Earth is. It is just right, and we better not mess it up.

  2. Still chuckling! Like basic needs and dreams becoming rather awkward bedfellows! Amazed that there are 5 dishes lined up at Narrabri! Are these default versions are does each one have a unique mission?

  3. Love your comparison between a building for basic needs and ones to excite a higher level of thinking. Great shot of the 5 in a row and love your humour.

  4. Hi Ya Red - Well, This is really neat - just got in from an early morning walk with Jack before the sweltering heat hits. This is like the best LOO ever. I can only imagine somewhere light years another more advanced civilization, peering through their telescopes and spotting the LOO - h-m-m-m-m and perhaps thinking - there's only one dwelling - lets go check it out!! So, leave your card on the wall, so they can track you down, OH MIGHTY ONE. hehe Have a wonderful day :)

  5. You always find a Loo with a View!! I am noticing your beautiful blue sky. Our weather here has been so rainy lately that I forgot what a blue sky looked like.

  6. I like the view from this Loo. The shot of the 5 dishes and the last shot with the sunset is pretty. Great post and photos.

  7. Hey, even aliens might have to use the facilities on occasion. So it's convenient for them as well! Great post, Red!

  8. Looks like a scene from the future.


  9. I like the picture of five in a row and how nice, that no matter how advanced their technology might be , they have not forgotten the basic of needs. Happy toilet hunting.

  10. I couldn't help appreciating the contrast between the symbols of humanity's lowly response to nature's call and the ultimate pinnacle of humanity's search for meaning in the universe.

    Sort of makes me feel good to be reminded that even the most talented artist, skilled surgeon, or accomplished scientist still has to go when their internal nature calls.

  11. Really impressive - in both directions ;-)

  12. @TFG - Too true, my friend! I don't often get the opportunity to feel small ... but at the Array I felt positively minuscule!!!
    @Gemma - Haha, lofty scientific cutting edge technology meets millennia of evolution ... I've obviously explained the Array badly - data from each of the 5 'scopes (focused on a different area/aspect) is combined (with some extrapolation) to simulate a 'picture' bigger than the sum of its parts! Make sense?? HAhaha, maybe the website can explain it better than I!!
    @diane b - When I am faced with the lofty ideals of science and technology I find a touch of humour the only response to feeling like an ignorant fool!
    @Saucy Kod - HAhaha, LOVE your comment!!! So when they say 'take me to your leader', I'm IT?? Because I'm the only one fool enough to have left my calling card in the loo???!!! That's a truly scary thought for humanity ...
    @MJWC - Haha, A BLUE view is the best LOO view!!!

  13. @eileeninmd - It's one of the more unusual OZ loo views I've found! And so lucky to be there when the sky looked awesome ...
    @TMWH - Haha, just hope the aliens don't use the loo as their sole source of human biological samples from Earth!!
    @Filip - Haha, if it's not a scene from the future, it's very close!
    @Fun60 - Yes, Scenic Loos - or ANY loos for that matter - are a great leveller!!
    @Beach Bum - Yes, we are all equal - but some are a little more equal than others!! Sound familiar??
    @Iris - HAha! Yes, it DOES work both ways!! Which is your favourite?!?!

  14. This is better than turning on the science channel.... where I saw this array a few weeks ago. I think your reporting was so much better as the TV totally missed the outhouse at the end of the universe.

  15. That is a loo with a different view! We saw an array like that in New Mexico once -- it is whre they filmed the movie "Contact"...Bill loved it -- I took a zillion pictures without understanding anything.

  16. G'day Red!
    FABULOSO photos! Awesome! I LOVE this stuff. I reckon secret agents were watching you M!! Oh yeah for sure. Did the aliens take Pilchard!? Where is he??
    You could just write, and not post any pics and I'd follow you REd!

  17. Interesting post in your amazing account! it's a great technology for human life.

  18. one thing is for certain Red, despite the advances in technology, we will still need the humble toilet! And when you have been travelling and bush camping for a few days ie squat over hole you have dug in the bush - it is nice to have a good old Aussie toilet to sit on!

  19. @SFlaGuy - HAhaha, now that's just sloppy reporting!!! Fancy missing such an integral part of the array!!! Good thing I was here to pick up the slack ... BTW, I've mentioned you in my next post - see if you can find it!!
    @Sallie - Taking photos is a fine cover-up for lack of understanding - and one I have used MANY times ... tragic that I need it at all, but there you go!
    @Rose - Hahaha, it was awfully quiet over in the government buildings ... I guess they were wondering why I was so intrigued by the loo instead of the multi-million $$ pieces of cutting edge technology!! I DID capture P on film, but he wouldn't let me use the pic ...
    @ercotravels - Thank you and welcome!! There are a lot of life lessons to be learned here ... although I'm not sure I picked the best ones to share!
    @Jill - The loo is a great leveller ... and a sure sign of civilisation! Whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen!

  20. LOL - no, I don't have one - how did you guess?

  21. @FruitCake - HAha, just a wild stab in the dark ...

  22. In New Mexico the state right next door to Arizona is a place called The Very Large Array. I've been there two times and I really need to go back. I'm not sure how many of these monoliths they have but I do know that they have a huge network of tracks used to arrange them. Sometimes they are spread out from each other at great distances and other times they are bunched up together. So now, after I look up Tom Price on Google Earth I'll be looking up Narrabri. What fun it's been visiting your site.


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