ATNF Telescope Status for 2016OCT
All ATNF Telescope Applications for 2016OCT must be submitted using OPAL.
Cover sheets from previous semesters should be re-loaded into the cover sheets editor and carefully re-checked before (re-)submitting a proposal.
The deadline for all proposals is 07:00 UT (17:00 Sydney local time), Wednesday, 15 June 2016 .
For 2016OCT, 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.
What's new in 2016OCT?
- Observing support and remote observing qualification requirements were changed in February 2015 and are described in the ATNF observing support model.
- ATCA: As previously announced, proposals for ATCA Legacy Projects, to start in 2016OCT, are invited. See the ATCA section below for more details.
- Parkes: The Breakthrough Foundation and Yuri Milner have entered into an agreement with CSIRO to use the Parkes Telescope to Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The Breakthrough Listen program will be allocated 25% of Parkes observing time for five years commencing in 2016OCT. See the Parkes section below for more details.
- Parkes: The 20-cm multi-beam receiver will be available again in the 2016OCT semester, however the multi-beam correlator is no longer available. HIPSR offers some spectral line capability, with the higher spectral resolutions formerly provided by the multi-beam correlator planned to be developed on the Parkes GPU cluster during 2016OCT.
- Parkes: DFB3 has been withdrawn from service due to reliability issues. DFB4 or CASPSR should be considered as alternatives to DFB3.
- Mopra: Mopra is no longer being offered as a National Facility telescope and is being operated by a UNSW-led consortium of universities. Some availability for LBA observations during 2016OCT may be possible.
- LBA: LBA proposers are reminded of their responsibility to contribute to LBA observing support.
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.
A document outlining Time Assignment Committee procedures is now available from the TAC web page.
For further information contact the Head of Science Operations, Phil Edwards (Philip.Edwards [at] csiro.au).
ATCA Legacy Projects
Proposals are invited for ATCA Legacy Projects. Legacy Projects are large, coherent scientific investigations, not reproducible by any combination of smaller programs, that generate data which will be of lasting use and importance to a large section of the astronomical community. They are projects that will require more than 2000 hours' observing in total, and more than 300 hours per semester. They are distinct from, and will be additional to, the existing category of Large Projects. From 2016OCT, ATCA Legacy Projects will be allocated up to 25% of observing time on the ATCA. A call for Legacy Projects will be made about every two years, with the exact spacing between calls dependent on the number and length of projects already accepted. Legacy Projects will be reviewed by the TAC (augmented by additional expertise). There will be no proprietary period for the raw data from Legacy Projects. This is to maximise the scientific outcomes from the large fraction of observatory time they represent, and to enable timely follow-on observations. Each project must release its value-added data or data products in a timely way: its rate of delivery will be assessed in the review of an annual progress report each year. Proposals must select "ATCA Legacy Project" as the proposal type on the Cover Sheets. Legacy projects have a 10 page limit for the scientific and technical justification. Details of the requirements for these proposals are given in the OPAL user guide.
The default location for observing with the ATCA is the Marsfield Science Operations Centre (SOC). Observing at the ATCA will still be permitted for complex or non-standard observations, or in other circumstances where this is the more sensible option. Remote observing from other locations is permitted for suitably qualified observers.
For 2016OCT, the array configurations 6A, 6A, 1.5C, 1.5D, 750B, 750C, EW352, EW367, and H214 will be offered. Configurations will only be scheduled if there is sufficient proposal demand for them. The 2016APR semester ends in H168 array, and the ATCA may remain in this array for the first weeks of the 2016OCT semester so observations may also be requested in this configuration.
The Compact Array Broadband Backend (CABB) modes that will be available for 2016OCT semester are:
- CFB 1M: A bandwidth of 2 GHz with 2048 x 1-MHz channels in each IF band, but no "zoom" bands.
- 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.
- 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.
- CFB 1M/64M: A "hybrid" mode with 2048 x 1-MHz (but no zooms) in one IF band, and 32 x 64-MHz channels with (optionally) up to 16 zoom bands with 2048 channels across each 64 MHz in the other IF band.
- Pulsar binning mode: The normal 2048 x 1 MHz continuum band is supplied for each IF band and in addition, for each IF, a time-binned IF band with 512 x 4 MHz channels and 32 time bins across the period of the pulsar. A minimum bin time of 110 micro-seconds is possible, allowing 32 bins across a 3.5 milli-second pulsar period.
- High time-resolution mode: The normal 2048 x 1 MHz continuum band is supplied for each IF band and in addition, for each IF, a time-binned IF band with 512 x 4 MHz channels and either 128 or 32 time bins across the correlator cycle period (normally 10 seconds, but can be routinely set as low as 2 seconds).
For the latest information on CABB, please check the CABB web page.
Compact Array receivers and frequency ranges
The 16-cm band receivers provide an instantaneous frequency coverage from 1.1 to 3.1 GHz (although the usable bandwidth is reduced by typically 30% by Radio Frequency Interference [RFI] -- the impact of RFI on the 16cm band can be seen at here.). 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 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. CA02, CA03, CA04 and CA05 have new feed horns to extend the frequency coverage to 12 GHz. (A consequence of this is that the focus positions for these four antennas in the 4cm band 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. Note that the 3mm receivers are ageing and that, as spare parts are limited, or non-existent, component failure in a receiver may not be able to be repaired in a timely manner, or at all.
The ATCA sensitivity calculator provides a means of determining the sensitivity characteristics of observations, and can include the reduction in bandwidth expected due to RFI in the 16cm band.
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 2016 will be near a R.A. of 1h25m and declination of +8d16m. 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, PKS 1934-638 is sufficiently strong to be used as a primary flux density calibrator. However, the flux scale of PKS 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 is 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 2016OCT. Details of the system are available at the WVR webpage.
- Latest information on the Compact Array Broadband Backend (CABB)
- The Australia Telescope Compact Array User Guide describes how to apply for observing time, make a schedule file, and carry out observations with the ATCA.
- Target of Opportunity and NAPA (Non A Priori Assignable) proposals
- For further information contact the ATCA Lead Scientist, Jamie Stevens (Jamie.Stevens [at] csiro.au).
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. Remote observing from other locations is permitted for suitably qualified observers.
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 staff (during business hours) with their observing. 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 Data Access Portal (DAP). 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.
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: such proposals must also explicitly discuss their plans for handling such data volumes in their justification. 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).
As noted above, the Breakthrough Foundation and Yuri Milner have entered into an agreement with CSIRO to use the Parkes Telescope to Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The Breakthrough Listen program will be allocated 25% of Parkes observing time for five years commencing in 2016OCT, which will typically be scheduled as a 4~5 hour block each day. The Breakthrough Foundation is not guaranteed any more than 30% of time at any given local sidereal time (LST) range (hour) each month. Commensal use of Breakthrough Listen data may be possible. The process for this has yet to be finalised, and details will be made available from the ATNF webpage once they are available. Commensal use of Breakthrough Listen data (in 2016OCT) will not require a proposal to be submitted for consideration by the ATNF Time Assignment Committee.
The 20-cm multi-beam receiver will be available again in 2016OCT (having been removed from the focus cabin in February to allow installation of the MPIfR Phased Array Feed). It is expected that the 10cm/50cm receiver will be regularly available. The availability of other receivers, such as the H-OH receiver (covering 1.2-1.8 GHz), will be driven by proposal pressure. Details of the Parkes receiver fleet and other technical information are available in the Parkes Radio Telescope Users Guide.
Pulsar Digital Filterbanks
The digital filterbank DFB4 is available: as DFB3 had become limited in its functionality it is no longer offered. DFB4 contains one CABB processor and one digitiser and has similar characteristics and performance to DFB3 for normal pulsar timing, except for short period pulsars, where DFB3 had an advantage owing to its extra processing power. 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 been decommissioned with its functionality replaced by CASPSR, a coherent de-dispersion pulsar backend developed by Swinburne University of Technology, and made available on a shared-risk basis.
The 13-beam digital filterbank, the Berkeley-Parkes-Swinburne Recorder (BPSR) has been replaced by the HIPSR backend, which will be available during 2016APR on a shared-risk basis.
In single beam mode, Analog Filter Bank functionality has been replaced by DFB4 and CASPSR. (The Analog Filter Banks were decommissioned in September 2013.)
Spectral Line Correlators
The multibeam correlator (MBCORR) has been decommissioned, with two spectral line modes provided by HIPSR. These modes are (i) a bandwidth of 400 MHz on all 13 beams, with 8192 spectral channels per product and (ii) a bandwidth of 200 MHz on all 13 beams, with 16384 spectral channels per product. It is planned to reproduce the higher spectral resolution modes of MBCORR in the new GPU cluster at Parkes, however these are unlikely to be available until some way through 2016OCT: proposers interested in these modes should contact Jimi Green (details below). Currently, only spectral line mode is supported by HIPSR: Continuum and polarisation observations are not offered.
The digital filterbank DFB4 can also be used as a single-beam spectrometer in both simple and time-binning modes.
Continuum and Polarisation Backends
The digital filterbank 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).
Proposers intending to start a new project are advised to contact the Parkes Lead Scientist, Jimi Green (James.Green [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.
In the 2016OCT semester the 70-m and 34-m antennas at Tidbinbilla will have limited availability for single-dish use. Access to Tidbinbilla antennas is provided through the host country agreement, which provides approximately 220 hours in total each semester. This is used for both single dish (typically 180 hours per semester) and LBA (typically 40 hours per semester) 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 34-m antennas are 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.
The second phase of the down-converter upgrade for the 4-channel K-band receiver has recently been completed on the 70m. This new system supports two simultaneous beams per polarisation (four beams in total) across the total frequency coverage of 17 GHz to 27 GHz. An on-the-fly mapping mode has been developed 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 of Tidbinbilla, Helga Denes (Helga.Denes [at] csiro.au).
For 2016OCT semester, the Long Baseline Array (LBA) will use the Compact Array 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, and the Warkworth 30-m telescope is available on a best-efforts basis at 6.7 GHz. A limited amount of time may be available with the Tidbinbilla 70-m antenna or one of the 34-m antennas. The Mopra telescope is being operated by a UNSW-led consortium during 2016OCT and may be available to participate in some LBA observations during the semester. 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. The Hartebeesthoek 26-m or 15-m telescopes may also be available subject to its other commitments.
It is planned in the 2016OCT 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 if they wish to use it, and provide additional scientific justification.
Constraints on Parkes receiver changes impose limits on the frequency of LBA observations with Parkes at wavelengths shorter than the 20cm band.
LBA proposers are reminded that a member (or members) of the proposal team will be required to assist with the VLBI observing on the ATNF telescopes. Please ensure that a member of the proposal team will be able to help. Note that due to logistical constraints the VLBI schedule usually is release only a few weeks before observing, so the observer will need to be qualified for remote observing with Parkes and ATCA, or able to travel to the SOC in Sydney before the LBA session in time to be trained.
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. This calculator is based on a Java applet and the default setting for many browsers is to not allow such applets to run, unless browser preferences are modified appropriately. Efforts are underway to develop a new version of the calculator: until that time proposers may contact Chris Phillips (details below) with any questions related to sensitivity calculations for LBA observations.
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. 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 the LBA Lead Scientist, Chris Phillips (Chris.Phillips [at] csiro.au).