OPAL Users GuideOPAL home page
Welcome to the OPAL Users Guide.
CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) operates a number of world-class radio astronomy observatories across Australia. The observatories, known collectively as the Australia Telescope National Facility or ATNF, consists of the Parkes radio telescope, the Australia Telescope Compact Array, the Mopra radio telescope and the Long Baseline Array. Observing time is also provided on the radio telescopes at Tidbinbilla.
This guide is intended for astronomers who wish to submit proposal applications for the ATNF facilities. The guide was last updated in May 2012.
OPAL is a web-based application that is used to prepare and submit telescope applications to the ATNF. The software for this application runs on a central server that is located at the ATNF site in Marsfield, Sydney. To run OPAL you need to be connected to the internet.
OPAL must be used to prepare and submit all telescope applications to the ATNF. To connect to OPAL go to the OPAL Home Page.
First-time users of OPAL may like to work through a self-guided OPAL tutorial.
The recommended browser for OPAL is Firefox. OPAL also supports Internet Explorer. Other browsers may also work but are not supported . If you are having problems using OPAL with your browser, please make sure you are using a recommended browser.
To find out which version of a browser you are using, use the browser 'help' or 'about' facility. For example, in Firefox (with Windows), click on:
Help >> About Mozilla Firefox.
This will pop up a window that gives the browser version number. For Internet Explorer, click on:
Help >> About Internet Explorer.
For the Firefox browser, set the browser options so the browser will ask you where to save files. Note that for Firefox, the default option is to save all files on your desktop.
For Firefox on Windows, to set the download option open the browser and click on:
Tools >> Options >> Downloads >> 'Ask me where to save every file'
For Firefox on a Mac, to set the download option open the browser and click on:
Firefox >> Preferences >> Downloads >> 'Ask me where to save every file'
For first-time users we recommend that you create and save a dummy proposal cover sheet to test that your browser is working correctly.
OPAL provides a set of proposal tools that allow users to:
- register as an OPAL user and update user details
- login to OPAL
- create, modify and save proposal cover sheets
- create, modify and save source lists
- create, modify and save observation tables
- preview a proposal as a pdf file
- search for the cover sheets of successful OPAL proposals
- submit, update and withdraw proposals during an application period
- access your own current and previous submissions
- see proposal grades and comments provided by the Time Assignment Committee (available for proposals from 2009OCTS)
- print proposals as pdf files.
These tools are described in detail in the sections below. OPAL also provides facilities that are available only to administrators, telescope schedulers and Time Assignment Committee members. These are not discussed further in this manual.
OPAL provides tools that allow a user to edit source tables, cover sheets and observations tables. These files are saved onto the user's local disk using specified filenames. If you have a problem setting the filename, or the location on your disk to save files then please see the browser set up notes in section 1.2.
Saved files can be reloaded into OPAL and edited as needed. Note that - as with any application it is important to save files regularly.
OPAL files are in XML format. Please do not try to edit the XML files without using OPAL as this is very likely to make the files unreadable.
Remember to save OPAL documents to your local disk
OPAL is intended to be straightforward to use. If you are a first time user we suggest you start by trying out the source list editor, cover sheet editor and observations table editor. The links to these are given on the OPAL Home Page.
There are several ways of getting information about OPAL:
- Read this guide. This is intended to give you enough information to prepare your proposals.
- For first-time users of OPAL there is a self-guided OPAL tutorial.
- Use the on-line help files. A set of on-line instructions are provided with the OPAL proposal tools for cover sheets, source lists and observations tables. To view these, click on the 'expand instructions' link that you will see at the top of the relevant page.
- Contact the OPAL adminstrators at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science. Please send enquiries and comments by email to email@example.com
OPAL may be used without registration to create and save local files. However, proposers need to be registered to submit a proposal to the ATNF, or to access previously submitted files. We strongly recommend that all co-authors included on proposals register with OPAL.
To register with OPAL, go to the OPAL Home Page and click on the 'Register' link on the left-hand side. Enter your email address, name, affiliation and a password for OPAL access.
OPAL will allow you to register either one or two email addresses. The system will register you straight away and will then open a screen for you to login. The initial registration and login is very quick to do.
OPAL user accounts are self managed . Please keep your account details up to date. To change user-registration details, or to request a new OPAL password, use the links to 'Update your details' and 'Change your password'.
To login to OPAL using a registered user account, click on the 'Login' link and enter your email address and OPAL password. An optional facility is provided that allows you to automatically login when you reconnect on the same browser. You may log out at any time.
Unregistered users included on a submitted proposal will receive an email to invite them to register with OPAL.
For account problems please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A proposal application to the ATNF will, in general, consist of three separate files, the science case, a cover sheet and an observations table. Proposals that have been granted a 'pre-graded' status are not required to submit the science case.
OPAL also provides a tool to create, edit and save source lists. The source lists are not submitted as part of an ATNF telescope application but they can be loaded into the observations tables and can be a useful way of storing long source lists.
The science case may be written in any preferred format (for example, LaTeX or Microsft Word) but must be converted to a pdf file for submission. OPAL is not used to write the science case but is used to submit the pdf file with the proposal cover sheet and observations table.
To ensure that proposals are readable, please note the following general requirements for formatting science cases.
- The pdf file for the science case must not exceed 10 MBytes in size. OPAL will not accept larger files.
- For standard proposals, and for NAPA proposals, the scientific case must not exceed three pages in total including figures and references.
- For Large Projects, the scientific case must not exceed five pages in total including figures and references.
- A font size of 11pt or larger (12pt Times Roman is preferred), and page margins of at least 1.5 cm must be used.
- Paragraphs should be either indented, or separated by a line space.
- Figures should have clearly labelled axes and may be in either black and white or colour.
- Give full text (at least for first use in text) for all non-standard acronyms.
- See working with PDF files below for information on using pdf files. Make sure that your pdf file prints properly before you submit the a proposal. Check that the fonts, symbols, and images were converted properly before submitting your proposal.
- Double check that your proposal is within the allowed page limits. Note that the Time Assignment Committee may reduce a proposal grade where the scientific justification is over the page limit.
The ATNF does not require a particular style or headings for science cases. However, to assist proposers, the Time Assignment Committee has provided the following recommendations:
- In the very first paragraph of the science case, provide a summary of the proposal. This
should be written in clear English and aimed at an astronomer who is a non-expert in your particular field. The
summary should state:
- What the problem is
- What you plan to do to solve it
- It is much easier for the TAC members to read and understand your proposal if it is well presented on the page. Avoid trying to cram too much into your page allocation. Aim for a well-written but succinct proposal with (as above) a reasonable font-size, white space between paragraphs, section headings and informative captions. Use bullet points or numbered lists for multiple aims.
- Most TAC members now read proposals electronically and can view colour on their screen. Colour figures are therefore recommended. To avoid scrolling up and down on computer screens, please try to place the figures close to the relevant text.
- Generally, proposals are more compelling if they explain:
- Why the problem is important.
- Why it is timely to investigate it now and how it will contribute to future investigations.
- Why the requested ATNF facility is the best one to use for this project.
- Why and how you have chosen your sample size. (Give reasons for why this study has only one source or has a few sources or many sources.)
- At the end of the proposal, it is useful to include a paragraph on 'Time Requested'. This should include information for the telescope schedulers, such as your preferred LST range for the observations, particularly for survey-type proposals with a large number of sources. It is also helpful to state a minimum useful time. For multi-epoch proposals, give the preferred separation between epochs. For Compact Array proposals, the scheduler appreciates information on whether alternative configurations to those given in the observations table would be acceptable.
- Proposals requesting single-dish Tidbinbilla time, or LBA time involving Tidbinbilla, should state clearly in their scientific justification why a Tidbinbilla antenna is required. This may help in obtaining the requested time from Jet Propulsion Laboratories.
Projects requesting a total of more than 400 hours of observing time on any ATNF facility are called 'Large Projects'. Large projects have, in addition to the usual three-page limit for scientific justification, an additional two pages to be used for defining mandatory data analysis and timeline plans, data release plans, and a recommended public outreach plan . Additional figures supporting the scientific justification can be included within the two additional pages if desired.
Large projects can request time be allocated over several semesters, and if successful may be given a 'pre-graded' status to reflect this. In this case the grade from one semester is carried over into the following semester and the proposers need only submit the cover sheet and observations table in that semester.
In some cases, the TAC may choose to award a reduced time allocation if a small pilot study is required to show success before a large project can be judged on its scientific and technical merits.
Please see the Large Projects web page for latest information.
The proposal cover sheet contains general information about the proposal. To create a new cover sheet click on the link to the 'Cover sheet editor'. You may then choose to either create a new cover sheet, or to open a previously saved cover sheet.
OPAL uses a different cover sheet for each telescope facility.To complete a cover sheet, select the appropriate form, fill in the appropriate fields and then save the cover sheet to your local disk.
The cover sheet tool provides a facility for selecting the contact information for the proposers using the OPAL register of users. Contact information (name, email and affiliation) for unregistered users can also be entered.
Cover sheets are created using a guided information collection process broken up into a series of pages. The forms you are presented with may change dynamically as you select options and enter information. To navigate between the pages, use the 'previous' and 'next' buttons that are given at the bottom of the pages.
Mandatory and optional fields
Mandatory fields that must be filled in are indicated by an asterisk(*). Other fields provide additional optional information. Examples of mandatory fields are the proposal title and list of proposers. Examples of optional fields are preferred and impossible dates.
Multiple entry fields
Some fields allow multiple entries. For example, to select more than one scientific category - select the first option then hold down the control key to select further options.
Proposal numbers and previous submissionsWhen you submit a proposal to the ATNF, the proposal is assigned a proposal number. Proposal numbers for the Compact Array, Parkes, Mopra, Tidbinblla and VLBI proposals start with the letters C, P, M, T & V respectively.
In many cases, observers request observing time over two or more semesters. If you are submitting a proposal for a project where you submitted a proposal in a previous semester, enter the previous proposal number. You should provide the previous number even if your previous proposal was not successful.
Saving a cover sheet
Once you have completed a cover sheet (or at any time during the editing process) you should save the completed cover sheet to your local disk. OPAL will advise you if any of the mandatory fields in the cover sheet have not been completed. To save the cover sheet click on the 'Save cover sheet' button. This will save all of the information that you have entered.
Cover sheets that have previously been saved, can be loaded back into OPAL for further editing.
Note that you should not submit the cover sheet until all parts of your proposal are ready.
Cover sheet session
The cover sheet editor maintains a session on our server that remember information that you have entered on previous pages. The session will expire if you do not progress to another cover sheet page within 3 hours. In this case your cover sheet will be reset.
OPAL provides a tool to create, edit and save source lists. This tool is provided to facilitate the preparation of proposals. The source lists are not submitted as part of an ATNF telescope application but they can be loaded into the observations tables. For example, a user might keep a source list as a catalogue of the sources related to a project, but only select a subset of these for a single proposal.
Source lists include source names, positions and epochs. In addition, OPAL source lists may have (but do not require) up to eight additional user-defined columns. These might be used, for example, to record source velocities, position errors or other useful information.
The OPAL source list tool can also be used together with the Australia Telescope Online Archive (ATOA) to determine whether sources in a list have previously been observed with the Compact Array.
- Adding a source
To add a source enter the source name. New source rows will be added automatically as you type. Click 'delete' to remove a source.
- On-line name resolution
OPAL will automatically attempt to resolve any name you type using SIMBAD and NED. If the source is identified in a catalogue then the catalogue name will turn green. Hover your mouse over the catalogue name (i.e. NED or SIMBAD) to see the resolved position and click on the name to use the position in your source list. Note that the position provided by NED or SIMBAD may be different to the position you want to use for an actual observation.
- Coordinate systems
Source or target positions can be entered into the source list using either equatorial (B1950 or J2000) or Galactic coordinates. OPAL allows you to switch between galactic and equatorial coordinates using the 'switch and convert' button.
The following coordinate coversions are provided:
- B1950 to Galactic
- J2000 to Galactic
- Galactic to J2000
Note that the 'epoch' selector is used to denote the epoch of Galactic coordinates entered. OPAL does NOT convert directly between B1950 and J2000 but can convert from B1950 to Galactic and from Galactic to J2000. .
- Coordinate formats
Equatorial coordinates should be specified either in sexagesimal format (hh:mm:ss.sss, dd:mm:ss.sss). Galactic coordinates must be formatted as decimal degrees (ll.lll, bb.bbb).
The following are examples of acceptable formats:
RA = 12:03:04.5, Dec = -20:02:00
Glong = 310.2, Glat = -3.1
Sexagesimal coordinates must be enterred in full. Thus ra = 13:20 is not an acceptable format but ra = 13:20:00 is.
- Custom fields
To add an extra column, click the 'add column' button. Additional columns may be removed using the 'remove' button.
- Saving a source list
The source list may be saved in either an OPAL format (filename.xml) or in an ATCA sched-catalogue format (filename.cat). The OPAL format supports all of the features provide by the source list editor, and is the recommended format to use.
The ATCA sched-catalogue format is provided so that source lists can be written as a plain text file that is compatible with the ATCA scheduling program, (i.e. with the CAT command in the program SCHED). It also allows users to start with a previously generated list that can converted into the ascii format. The sched-catalogue format allows additional columns to be added to a source list but does not support custom field names or Galactic coordinates. Note that the filename must end in '.cat'.
To save the file to your local disk, select the save format and click on the 'Save source list' button. This will save all the sources currently listed in the source table, including both selected and unselected rows.
- Opening an existing source list
Enter your file name or browse to it and click 'Open'. This will either create a new source list, or will append the sources in the file to the source list in view.
- Editing a source list
Some simple editing of the rows in a source list table is provided by the buttons labelled 'invert', 'all' and 'none'. These have the following functions:
- Invert: reverses the currently selected rows. Select all currently non-selected observations and de-select any selected ones
- All: select all rows
- None: de-selects all rows
A set of selected rows can be manipulated by selecting one of the 'manipulate rows' options. Rows can be inserted, moved up or down, sorted into Right Ascension order or deleted.
- Using the ATOA with OPAL
- Create a new observations table
To create a new Observations table, or to edit a previously-saved table, click on the link to the 'Observations table editor' and select the required table.. OPAL uses a different observations table for each telescope facility and will provide a set of dynamically-created web pages for you to complete. Mandatory fields are indicated by an asterisk.
- Adding a row to the table
To add an observation, enter the source or target name. New observation rows will be added automatically as you type.
- Coordinate systems and formats
Coordinate systems and formats are discussed in section 3.6 above. OPAL supports both Galactic and equatorial coordinate modes. To switch between these, use the 'switch and convert' button. Any coordinates already entered in one system will be automatically converted to the new coordinate system.
- LST ranges For the ATCA, Parkes, Mopra and Tidbinbilla, OPAL will automatically calculate the LST range for individual sources (taking into account observatory latitude and elevation limits) provided that the source position is correctly specified. The LST ranges may be edited, using the format, LST = hh:mm, if this is desirable (for example to restrict 3-mm observations to higher elevations).
- Integration time and the 'Number of epochs' field
The integration time should specify the total time needed to observe the source in a 24-hour period, including the time needed for setting up and observing calibrator sources. It is not necessary to list calibration sources separately.
A 'Number of epochs' field can be used to specify multiple observations of the same source or region. For example, for a monitoring program where a source is to be observed 10 times for 2 hours each time specify 'integration time = 2' and 'Number of epochs = 10'.
OPAL will calculate the total observing time requested for each source and for all sources.
- Target type
Each observations table has a field called the 'Target Type'. This field is used to specify the type of observing program (individual sources, mosaic, survey, scanning/mapping and others).
Select the target type that is appropriate for your proposal.
- Loading an Observations Table or Source List
OPAL can load a previously saved source list, or observations table into the current observations table. The sources will be appended to any existing rows. Please note that the loaded observations table must be for the same telescope facility.
- Editing an Observations Table
OPAL provides some editing tasks for the observations tables. These are similar to those used for the source list editor described above (section 4.6) :
To select a row of the table, use the checkbox next to the target name or via the selection buttons for 'invert', 'all' and 'none'.
Use the 'manipulate rows' options to move, sort or delete selected rows.
- Saving an Observations Table
To save an observations table file to your local disk, click on the 'Save observations table' button. This will save all the sources currently listed in the table, including both selected and unselected rows. OPAL will advise you if any mandatory fields have not been completed.
Please do not try to edit the observations tables without using the OPAL editor.
- Added antennas to LBA cover sheet
- Blocked submission of Mopra proposals
- Updated Users Guide
- TAC comments and grades for proposals for proposals submitted from 2009 OCTS onwards
- New tools for members and readers of the Time Assignment Committee.
- Updated Users Guide
- Proposal applications for Tidbinbilla
- upgrades to the LBA cover sheet.
- Initial release for 2006 APRS proposal applications
- User registration system
- User tools for proposal preparations and submission
- Administration tools
To search the ATOA from OPAL, use the source list editor to enter or load a list a sources into the source list. Then select one of the two 'Search ATOA' options. The 'Summary list' will return a scan-based summary. To access the data files select the 'files list' option. This will return a full listing of the observed files. These can be downloaded subject to ATNF data access conditions.
Every proposal submission must include an observation table. This summarises the requested observations. In general, each row in an observations table sumarises the observing requirements for one source or taget position.
For source lists of up to 30 individual sources, the proposal should include the individual source positions and other information.
For source lists of more than 30 sources and for large-scale surveys, it is sufficient to provide the required LST range. In this case enter a target name and LST range. Example target names for surveys or large source lists could be 'Galactic Plane Survey', 'pulsar survey', 'post-AGB stars' etc.
Large surveys and projects with long source lists should provide sufficient information in the scientific case to describe the program.
OPAL indicates targets that never rise or never set using the word 'never' in the LST-start or LST-end column respectively.
Any member of a proposal team, with an OPAL registration, may submit, update or widthdraw a proposal during an applications period.
To submit a proposal to the ATNF, make sure that you have all three files ready for the proposal cover sheet, the observations table and the scientific case (in pdf). Then click on the link on the OPAL home page to 'Submit a proposal'.
Use the browse buttons to load in the three files and then click on the 'submit' button.
Once your proposal has been submitted, OPAL will show you a web page that lists all your current and past proposals.
OPAL will send an email acknowledgment of the submission to all of the authors on the proposal with valid email addresses.
To list all your current and previous submissions, click on the link on the OPAL home page to 'List your proposals'. The top section of this listing will show any proposals submitted for the next proposal deadline. The bottom section shows proposal submitted for previous semesters. This tool includes the TAC comments and grades for all proposals from the 2009 OCTS semester onwards.
Update a Proposal
To update a current proposal, first use the link to 'List your proposals'. Then click on the 'Update proposal' item which is listed in the 'actions' column. You may then reload the proposal files and send them as an update to the same proposal.
It is the responsibility of the proposers to ensure that the correct files are uploaded. Please use the Update Proposals tool carefully! Note that updating a proposal submission will overwrite any files sent to the ATNF in an earlier submission. You should ensure you retain any files locally that you want to keep.
Withdraw a Proposal
To withdraw a proposal use the proposal listing as above and click on the 'withdraw proposal' item in the which is listed in the action column. OPAL will ask you for confirmation before doing this.
Access Files from a Previous Submission
OPAL allows you to access and download any of the files from previous OPAL submissions for proposals that include you as an author.
To access previously submitted proposals, use the proposal listing as above. This will list the individual proposal files for each proposal, and a PDF file generated for the full proposal. To save these files to your local disk click on the filenames and use the save options.
Receive email notifications of proposal updatesOPAL will send an email to all proposers when a proposal is submitted. To receive email notifications of further updates to the proposal, use the proposal listing as above. Then set the toggle switch under 'Notification' to 'email me if proposal is updated'. To stop further emails being sent set this to the 'do not email me' option.
This tool provides access to the full proposal cover sheets and observations tables, for proposals that were successful in being allocated time, or were accepted as a 'NAPA' proposal.
To search for proposals click on the 'search proposals' link on the OPAL Home Page and fill in your search criteria.
Note that this provides access to proposals submitted from 2006 APRS. To access proposal information, prior to and including 2005 OCTS, see the proposal summary information given in the Project Search facility.
Spitzer document Making PDFs We thank the Spitzer team for allowing use of this content.
Starting from LaTeX
After using the standard command
> latex mydocument.tex,
ordinarily, one next does
> dvips -o mydocument.ps mydocument.dvi.
If you do this followed by the subsequent steps below, the document will look awful on the screen, but print ok. In order to get the document to look ok on the screen, when you do dvips, you need to get the fonts right, and so you MUST use the -P flag. For example:
> dvips -P pdf mydocument.dvi -o mydocument.ps
Then continue with the next step below, since now you have a ps file on a unix/linux machine.
Starting from a ps file on a Unix/Linux machine
Use the program ps2pdf to convert the file to pdf. (If you can already view postscript files, this conversion script is almost certainly already installed on your system.)
> ps2pdf [options] input.ps output.pdf
To explicitly force Acrobat 4-and-later compatible PDF (version 1.3), use:
> ps2pdf13 [options] input.ps output.pdf
This should produce the nicest output possible so that it is clearly readable on the most platforms.
To open a pdf file in unix or Linux type
> acroread filename.pdf .
If on a Windows or Mac (with the Adobe products)
With a copy of Adobe Acrobat (the full version, not the free version), then any application that can print to a printer can also produce a PDF file. For example, you could choose to write your proposal scientific case using Microsoft Word and then covert the word file to a PDF document.
If you DO have Adobe Acrobat (and it is correctly installed), then from your Windows/Mac application, when you choose print, you can select the 'Adobe PDF' option as your printer. Do NOT select 'print to file', simply select the PDF writer as you would any other real physical printer. It will prompt for a filename.
Make sure to put the file where you can find it; Acrobat uses by default the location where it was the last time when it created a PDF file, not where your source file is.
To append several PDF files using Adobe Acrobat in Windows or a Mac
To append two or more PDF files together open Adobe Acrobat then use
File >> Create PDF >> from multiple files
then enter the selected filenames and save the output file.
If on a Windows or Mac without the Adobe products
If you do NOT have a copy of Adobe Acrobat (the full version, not just the free Acrobat Reader), you can produce a ps file through your Windows/Mac application and then convert it to PDF. Install a postscript printer driver if you don't already have one (you may need to seek help from your local computer support staff to do this). The open your original document and go to
Under the Printpopup menu, select the postscript printer driver, and then click on 'print to file'. This will create a postscript version of your document.
Now download the free postscript to PDF utility. Follow the installation and configuration instructions carefully. Use this to convert your postscript document to a PDF file.
Alternatively, could use the unix command ps2pdf if you are able to transfer your ps file to a place where you have ps2pdf installed. The PDF file may look odd in Adobe Acrobat, but it should print properly.
Observers are requested to acknowledge ATNF in any publications resulting from the use of the ATNF facilities or data archives. Please see the publications web page for acknowledgement statements.
Where possible, authors are requested to include a term such as `ATNF', 'Parkes', 'Mopra', 'Tidbinbilla', 'ASKAP' or `Australia Telescope Compact Array', in the abstract of their papers. This is to facilitate electronic searches for publications that include ATNF data.
Please inform (email) Julie.Tesoriero [@] csiro.au of any publications which include ATNF data.