ATNF Telescopes Status for 2014OCT

All ATNF Telescope Applications for 2014OCT must be submitted using OPAL.

Please note that, following suggestions from the Time Assignment Committee, sections 3.2 and 3.3 of the OPAL user guide have recently been revised and should be read by all proposers.

Cover sheets from previous semesters should be re-loaded into the cover sheets editor and carefully re-checked before (re-)submitting a proposal.


Important Notice

Funding for operating the ATNF is under review as CSIRO responds to reductions in funding associated with the commonwealth budget released on 14 May 2014 and to take effect from 1 July 2014. A reduction in the capabilities offered is expected, and some changes may need to be made for the coming semester. Please check the ATNF website for updates prior to the proposal deadline.

For 2014OCT, ATNF proposals will be accepted for the:

  • Australia Telescope Compact Array;
  • Parkes 64m telescope;
  • Tidbinbilla 70-m (DSS-43) and 34-m (DSS-34) antennas; and
  • Long Baseline Array.
  • The deadline for all proposals is 07:00 UT (17:00 Sydney local time), Wednesday, 18 June 2014.

    Proposals for National Facility use of the Mopra telescope will not be accepted for the 2014OCT semester.


    General Information

    Target of Opportunity proposals can be submitted at any time.

    Large Projects are projects that require a total of more than 400 hours of observing time over the lifetime of the project. Please read the Large Projects web page in addition to the information on this page.

    New users are advised to read the information on the ATNF Scientific Support of Facilities. This web page explains the different levels of support provided to proposers and observers.

    For further information on all facilities please contact the Head of Science Operations, Phil Edwards (Philip.Edwards [at] csiro.au).


    ATCA picture and
 link


    Array configurations

    For 2014OCT, the array configurations 6A, 6C, 1.5A, 1.5B, 750A, 750D, EW352, EW367, and H214 will be offered. Configurations will only be scheduled if there is sufficient proposal demand for them. The 2014APR semester ends in H214 array, and the ATCA may remain in this array for the first weeks of the 2014OCT semester: this does not preclude the array being scheduled again later in the semester.

    CABB modes

    The Compact Array Broadband Backend (CABB) modes that will be available from the beginning of the 2014OCT semester are:

    1. CFB 1M: A bandwidth of 2 GHz with 2048 x 1-MHz channels in each IF band, but no "zoom" bands.
    2. CFB 1M-0.5k: A bandwidth of 2 GHz with 2048 x 1-MHz channels and (optionally) a fine resolution of 0.5 kHz in up to 16 "zoom" bands (each with 2048 channels across 1 MHz) in each IF band.
    3. CFB 64M-32k: A bandwidth of 2 GHz with 32 x 64-MHz channels and (optionally) a fine resolution of 32 kHz in up to 16 zoom bands (each with 2048 channels across 64 MHz) in each IF Band.
    4. CFB 1M/64M: A "hybrid" mode with 2048 x 1-MHz (but no zooms) in one IF, and 32 x 64-MHz channels with (optionally) up to 16 zoom bands with 2048 channels across each 64 MHz in the other IF.

    Development of the CFB 16M-8k CABB mode is continuing, but as the mode has yet to be commissioned it is not being offered in 2014OCT.

    For the latest information on CABB, please check the CABB web page.

    High time resolution observations

    For high time resolution observations, a time resolution of order 10 milliseconds is possible, though with a reduced number of channels across each 2 GHz band (achieved by averaging over 1 MHz channels). Pulsar binning modes are available, with the minimum time bin being around 110 micro-seconds, allowing, for example, 32 phase bins for a 3.5 milli-second pulsar.

    Compact Array receivers and frequency ranges

    The 16-cm band receivers, installed in 2010, provide an instantaneous frequency coverage from 1.1 to 3.1 GHz (although the usable bandwidth is reduced by RFI). The 16-cm band receivers have an improved sensitivity over the original 20- and 13-cm receivers, and include new ortho-mode-transducers, significantly improving the polarisation performance toward the top end of the band.

    The 4-cm band receivers, installed in 2012, cover the band from 4 GHz to 10.8 GHz. These receivers provide significantly improved system temperatures over the original 6- and 3-cm receivers. CA03 and CA05 have new prototype feeds horns to extend the frequency coverage to 12 GHz. (A consequence of this is that the focus positions for these two antennas differ from those of other bands. This should be borne in mind if changing between bands during an observation. It takes about 1 minute to refocus the antennas.)

    In the 15-mm (16--25 GHz), 7-mm (30--50 GHz) and 3-mm (83.5--106 GHz) bands, two 2GHz-wide intermediate frequency bands may be selected within an 8 GHz bandwidth. In the 7-mm band, both band centres must be either greater than 41 GHz (the point at which the conversion changes from lower side-band to upper side-band) or both less than 41 GHz. Observing is possible with the standard 15-mm and 7-mm systems on all six antennas, and 3-mm systems on five antennas: there is no 3mm receiver on CA06.

    The ATCA sensitivity calculator provides a means of determining the sensitivity characteristics of observations.

    Millimetre observing

    Observing at 3 mm generally starts in May and ends in mid-October. Proposers are reminded that the primary flux density calibrator at 3 mm is Uranus, which in October 2014 will be near a R.A. of 1h00m and declination of +5d10m. Proposals for 3-mm observations that require accurate flux calibration should request time for observations of Uranus (if the array configuration allows). For 7-mm observations with CABB, 1934-638 is sufficiently strong to be used as a primary flux density calibrator. However, the flux scale of 1934-638 at frequencies above 25 GHz still requires full characterisation and it is advisable to also observe Uranus at 7 mm in array configurations for which the planet is not resolved. Proposers requiring their own observations of Uranus (at special frequencies, or at a time when their main target has set, for example), should make this clear in the observations table and justification of their proposal. For secondary calibration at 3- and 7-mm, Observatory staff will calibrate a number of bright AGN, spread over the full range of R.A., against Uranus at the standard continuum observing frequencies throughout the semester.

    The array has been outfitted with Water Vapour Radiometers (WVRs) provided by the University of New South Wales. Experience to date indicates that these units will, in some conditions, allow corrections to the measured phases on longer baselines to be made, improving phase stability and sensitivity. Interested mm-wavelength observers will be able to use of this capability during 2014OCT. Details of the system are available at the WVR webpage.

    Further information


    Parkes picture and link


    Important Information

    Remote observing with the Parkes telescope from the Marsfield Science Operations Centre (SOC) is now the default mode of observing. Observing from Parkes will still be permitted for complex or non-standard observations, or in other circumstances where this is the more sensible option. Observers who have successfully observed from the SOC will be permitted to carry out subsequent Parkes observations from other remote locations: all observers must observe at least once from the SOC in order to become a qualified Parkes remote observer, and then at least once every 12 months to retain remote observer status.

    It is expected that proposal teams with experienced Parkes observers will be self-sufficient, with a member of each team being designated the Project Expert and being the first point of contact (most often remotely) for questions relating to the observations after work hours. Inexperienced teams are encouraged to seek experienced collaborators: if this is not possible, the teams should be prepared to arrive several days before their observations commence in order for observer training to be completed during work hours so that a member of the team is qualified for the Project Expert role. All Parkes proposal teams are asked to nominate on the cover sheets of their proposal the member(s) in their team who will be (or will be trained to be) the Project Expert and who will be the first point of contact after hours. (However, it is recognised that the availability of team members can not be known until the observing schedule has been released.) Observers at the SOC are able to receive assistance from the rostered Parkes Support Astronomer (during business hours) with their observing. A rostered member of the ATNF Science Operations team is also available to support the Project Expert during business hours. Local Parkes staff will continue to provide the first point of contact for matters relating to safety of the telescope, and equipment.

    Data from Parkes observations are archived in ATOA (the Australia Telescope On-line Archive) or the CSIRO DAP (Data Access Portal). The DAP now handles some high-volume data from pulsar surveys. To manage the archiving process efficiently, it is necessary to know the expected data volume for projects with Terabyte-scale data requirements. This applies in particular to projects that use HIPSR. The cover sheet for Parkes proposals now specifically requests this information for projects that are likely to gather more than 1 Terabyte of data per semester. Observers are advised that they should adhere to the observing set-up described in their proposal. Any additional use of HIPSR must be discussed first with the Head of Science Operations (Phil Edwards).

    Receiver availability

    There will be no more than six receiver change days scheduled at Parkes during the 2014OCT semester, with associated limits on the number of receivers able to be deployed in a given semester. Projects requiring multiple epochs within a semester (e.g., pulsar timing) should clearly justify their requested observing cadence.

    It is anticipated that the 20-cm multi-beam and 10/50 receivers will be available in the 2014OCT semester, with the availability of other receivers driven by proposal pressure. Highly graded proposals requesting a receiver that is not installed in the focus cabin in 2014OCT will be reconsidered for scheduling in the 2015APR semester with the same grade, without the need to resubmit the proposal. Teams will be notified after the scheduling process is complete, if this applies to their proposal. For projects requiring frequencies above 3.6 GHz, please keep in mind the possibility of an extended, uncertain timeframe for scheduling of observations. In particular, this timeframe may be unreasonable for student projects and users should consider whether other ATNF facilities could be used instead.

    Details of the Parkes receiver fleet and other technical information are available in the Parkes Radio Telescope Users Guide. The H-OH receiver was outfitted in 2011 with a new feed offering improved performance across a wider frequency range, 1.2 to 1.8 GHz (and so providing better sensitivity at the 21 cm hydrogen line than the old receiver).

    The 13-mm (K-band) receiver covers a frequency range of 16 to 26 GHz. The receiver can be installed with either of two feeds: a narrow-band feed and quarter-wave plate providing dual orthogonal circular polarisation over the frequency range 21.0 to 22.3 GHz, or the standard feed providing dual orthogonal linear polarisation over the 16 to 26 GHz range. The package has two independent conversion systems, which currently allows simultaneous operation at any two frequencies within the 22-GHz band. (Note, however, that it is not possible to perform dual-IF observations in frequency-switching mode -- the options in this case are to use a single IF and use frequency-switching for each line separately, or use position-switching with dual IFs.)

    Pulsar Digital Filterbanks

    The digital filterbanks DFB3 and DFB4 are available. DFB4 is a similar instrument to DFB3, but contains only one CABB processor and one digitiser rather than the dual digitisers and processors in DFB3. DFB4 has similar characteristics and performance to DFB3 for normal pulsar timing, except for short period pulsars, where DFB3 has an advantage owing to the extra processing power. DFB3 can be used in time-binning mode for time resolutions down to 0.25 seconds with up to 4096 (single IF) or 2048 (dual IF) channels. Both spectral line and continuum observers are encouraged to use the digital filter-banks for their observations.

    The ATNF Parkes Swinburne Recorder (APSR) baseband system has replaced and extended the functionality previously offered by CPSR2. APSR uses DFB3 as a front-end to sample a single pair of inputs (two polarisations, single frequency) of up to 1 GHz bandwidth and record the baseband data at an aggregate rate of up to 8 Gbit/s.

    The 13-beam digital filterbank, the Berkeley-Parkes-Swinburne Recorder (BPSR) has been replaced by the HIPSR backend, which will be available during 2014OCT on a shared-risk basis. The system allows higher time resolution, and much greater spectral resolution than the analog filterbanks provided (400 kHz versus 3 MHz) and also allows more bits of precision in sampling. In single beam mode, Analog Filter Bank functionality has been replaced by DFB3 and DFB4. (The Analog Filter Banks were decommissioned in September 2013.)

    Spectral Line Correlators

    All advertised multibeam configurations with the Multibeam correlator are available, including those hybrid configurations which use part of the Wideband Correlator (WBC). The Multibeam correlator supports 4, 8, and 64 MHz bandwidths on all 13 beams, with up to 2048 spectral channels per product. Currently, one of the MBCORR samplers is known to be faulty for operations with the 4 and 8 MHz bandwidths, thus only 25 of 26 channels (13 beams, dual IF) can be offered at the two narrowest bandwidths. The Multibeam correlator will be decommissioned when its key modes are replaced by HIPSR. HIPSR supports a bandwidth of 400 MHz on all 13 beams, with 8192 spectral channels per product, but does not yet support narrower bandwidths. Currently, only spectral line mode is supported: Continuum and polarisation observations are not offered. The digital filterbanks DFB3 and DFB4 can also be used as spectrometers in both simple and time-binning modes. DFB3 for example can be used as a two-frequency, dual-polarisation spectrometer with 8192 spectral channels over two bands with bandwidths between 8 and 1024 MHz.

    Continuum and Polarisation Backends

    The digital filterbanks DFB3 and DFB4 can also be used as continuum backends both for total intensity and polarisation observations offering bandwidths up to 1024 MHz and full Stokes products. The number of available frequency channels (512 to 8192) allows spectral behaviour analysis and RFI flagging. In combination with either circular or linear feeds they can be used for Stokes Q & U or Stokes V observations respectively. A time resolution down to 0.25s is achievable in time-binning mode allowing fast scanning options (though note in this mode the maximum number of channels is 4096).

    Further information

    Proposers intending to start a new project are advised to contact Ettore.Carretti [at] csiro.au to discuss their requirements and availability of configurations before proposal submission. For further information on all Parkes facilities please refer to the Parkes Radio Telescope Users Guide.


    Mopra picture and link



    Important Information

    The Mopra telescope is not available for the 2014OCT semester, except as part of the Long Baseline Array. From October 2012, Mopra is being operated under a new model, with the provision of funding from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, the University of NSW, and the University of Adelaide allowing for the continued operation of the telescope, with these groups being provided with guaranteed observing time in return. A description of the new operating model is available.

    Mopra data products

    The data products from selected Mopra Large Projects are being made available through the Australia Telescope Online Archive (ATOA). This now provides access to processed data from the Mopra Millimetre Astronomy Legacy Team 90 GHz Survey (MALT90) , and the Central Molecular Zone Survey . Science Teams that would like to provide processed Mopra data products from previous or current Large Projects to the ATOA should contact Jessica.Chapman [at] csiro.au.


    Tidbinbilla picture and link

    In the 2014OCT semester the 70-m and 34-m antennas at Tidbinbilla will have limited availability for single-dish use. Tidbinbilla proposals remain active for one year. All observations are taken in a service mode when scheduling permits. Successful proposals require the submission of a source list with accurate target and calibrator positions.

    The 70-m antenna is equipped with 1.6, 2.3, 8.4 and 22 GHz receivers and the 34-m antenna is equipped with 2.3, 8.4 and 32 GHz receivers. The pointing performance of the 70-m is adequate for observations at the three lowest frequencies (1.6, 2.3 and 8.4 GHz) with no additional calibration, but observations at 22-GHz require a small overhead (~10% of observing time) for determining pointing corrections using bright AGN near the target of interest. It should be noted that the 22 GHz system is the most sensitive in the southern hemisphere, covering 18.0 to 26.5 GHz with a system temperature of 60 Jy. The 8.4 GHz system (also available on the 34-m antenna) is well-suited for radio recombination line observations.

    Tidbinbilla is equipped with an ATNF multibeam correlator block capable of two polarisation products, with up to 2048 channels, each with 32 or 64 MHz bandwidth, or up to 4 polarisation products with a total of 8192 channels (e.g., 2 x 4096 channels) and bandwidth of 16 MHz or less.

    Full details of available observing time, frequency coverage, correlator capabilities and other technical information are available from the Tidbinbilla Information web page. (See also the NASA Deep Space Communication Complex web pages.) An on-line sensitivity calculator is available to assist in proposal preparation. These pages also include details of current projects.

    There are two projects underway at Tidbinbilla to enhance the 70-m 22-GHz observational capability:

    1. A new 4-channel K-band receiver and down-converter system has recently been installed on the 70m. This new system supports two simultaneous beams per polarisation (four beams in total) across the current frequency coverage of 21 GHz to 25 GHz. It is planned that this range will be extended to 17-27 GHz during phase two of the upgrade.
    2. A project is nearly completed to establish on-the-fly mapping for spectral line observations. The mode has been tested and demonstrated to work with observations of ammonia lines at 23 GHz and radio recombination lines at 8.3 GHz.

    For the latest information of availability please refer to the Tidbinbilla website, or contact the ATNF Friend for Tidbinbilla, Yanett Contreras (Yanett.Contreras [at] atnf.csiro.au).


    LBA picture and link



    For 2014OCT semester, the Long Baseline Array (LBA) will use the Compact Array, Mopra telescope and Parkes radio telescope, together with the Hobart and Ceduna antennas operated by the University of Tasmania. In addition, the Warkworth 12-m telescope, operated by the Auckland University of Technology, is routinely available at 13 and 3cm, and on occasions at 20cm. A limited amount of time may be available with the Tidbinbilla 70-m antenna or one of the 34-m antennas. A single ASKAP antenna with a single pixel feed at 20cm or 3cm is offered on a best-efforts basis for projects where its use will significantly add to the likely science outcomes. The AuScope Yarragadee and Katherine 12-m antennas may also be available at 13cm or 3cm subject to their availability.

    It is planned in the 2014OCT semester to schedule some LBA time at the same time as a European VLBI Network (EVN) session, opening the possibility of joint LBA/EVN observations. The easternmost stations of the EVN are in a similar longitude range to the LBA telescopes, and for sources in equatorial regions, baselines to western European stations are also achievable. Proposals for joint LBA/EVN observations must be submitted separately to both the LBA and EVN at their respective deadlines.

    It is now possible to operate the ATCA in hybrid mode where one frequency chain is setup in VLBI mode and the other frequency chain in ATCA continuum mode (2 GHz bandwidth at 1 MHz resolution). Proposers should explicitly request this mode and provide additional scientific justification.

    Under its new operating model, the Mopra telescope will continue to be available for use with the Long Baseline Array. However, there is likely to be some restrictions on Parkes receivers due to the limited number of receiver changes at Parkes in this semester. Projects requiring multiple epochs within a semester (e.g., VLBI of variable phenomena) should clearly justify their requested observing cadence. Limitations on the number of Parkes receiver changes may constrain the scheduling of such projects.

    Other telescopes may be also requested for special observations. Specific system availability may be dependent on availability at individual antennas. For details consult the ATNF VLBI webpages.

    A Novices Guide is available for potential first-time users from the VLBI webpage.

    For assistance with planning proposals and observations please consult the VLBI sensitivity calculator.

    The current capabilities of the LBA are briefly outlined below:

    • The disk-based recording system is now used for all recorded VLBI observations and very high data rates (up to 1 Gbps) can be achieved;
    • All recorded observations will be correlated with the DiFX software correlator running on the Curtin University of Technology supercomputer. The software correlator is capable of correlating the high data rate observations at high spectral resolution with arbitrary correlator integration times;
    • Real-time e-VLBI observations are offered, using the ATNF antennas connected together via high-speed links and the DiFX software correlator running at the ATCA. Data-rates for e-VLBI observations of 1 Gbps from each ATNF antenna are now available. Real-time eVLBI capabilities to the Hobart and Warkworth antennas are also now available at 512 Mbps.

    The disk-based system is very flexible and can be used to obtain high sensitivity and/or ultra-high spectral resolution observations, useful for a number of novel scientific studies. These facilities improve the compatibility between Australian VLBI antennas and international antennas using other disk-based recording systems such as the Mark5 and K5 systems. User support is available, including assistance with proposal preparation, scheduling, observing and data reduction.

    A bit rate of 256 Mbps (2x16MHz bandwidth in 2 polarisations, with 2 bit digitisation and Nyquist sampling) can be sustained at all LBA telescopes and is the standard observing mode. Observations requesting higher bit rates will need to include a clear justification for the requested rate. Potential users must consult the Upgraded VLBI National Facilities capabilities .

    For more information contact Tasso Tzioumis (Tasso.Tzioumis [at] csiro.au) or Steven Tingay (s.tingay [at] ivec.org).