ATNF Director's Response to ATUC Report to Director, Nov 2001

ATUC Question   ATNF Director's Response

Action Items from Last ATUC meeting
6(c) Do we know why the 6.7GHz multibeam array for Parkes changed its priority?  
  1. By reaffirming the 12/3mm upgrade as our #1 priority we essentially relegated any other front-end work to #2 priority.
  2. As this is a collaborative project with JBO, we are also constrained by their timescales. The JBO components are due to be delivered to us around October 2002 when we will start to integrate them with our devices to form the overall system in late 2003.
7. Will oversubscription rate for each Facility be available with Observatory stats?   The average oversubscription rate for the last three terms is 2.1 for the Compact Array and 1.4 for the Parkes telescope. Statistics for the last three years are available and will be shown at the ATUC meeting as part of the Director's report.

New Business
1. Summary of RFI mitigation plan and implementation at Observatories requested  

The Interference Monitoring System (IMS) has been successfully commissioned and is being used for detailed characterisation of the RFI environment at Parkes. Further upgrades to the system are in train to broaden its frequency range and to maximise its effectiveness in SKA-related RFI measurements in WA and SA. Negotiations are underway with Air Services Australia to reassign the Parkes airport DME beacon to a less harmful frequency, on a cost-recovery basis (expected to be $20k to $30k AU).

At Narrabri, the SKA demonstrators and new correlator will aim at active interference mitigation, although some level of mitigation may be available on a shorter timescale.

4. Status report on flexible scheduling for next Session   A form of flexible scheduling is being trialled in 2002MAYT. It involves giving the mm observer the option of swapping their observing slot with a particular cm slot.
5. Feasibility study for online data archive; what information is needed from observing logs, online system; stats on archive requests. Results useful as forerunner to Virtual Observatory concept   An estimate of the cost of putting the complete archive online is $150000. A significant portion of this is the user interface.

Rather than embarking on an expensive ad hoc project, we would prefer to integrate this effort with the Virtual Observatory effort, and are actively pursuing ways in which this might be funded.

6. Has request been made to NASA to upgrade K-band system? Is a Tidbinbilla proposal form available for TAC ranking?   JPL (rather than NASA) have been asked to consider funding an appropriate upgrade to the 12mm system but have declined to do so. A request was also made to the November ATUC meeting for ATNF support to upgrade the existing station K-Band system in order to make it acceptable for the wider Australian astronomy user. Until this upgrade takes place it would not be appropriate to open up Tidbinbilla single dish to the wider community, and so a proposal form has not yet been made available.
7. Comment on VSOP Consortium science justification for continuation of Mopra support for one year beyond current agreement, ended March 2002   The VSOP consortium has sent a scientific justification (which was rated by the TAC) and a request for Mopra time for 2002MAYT. They have been awarded all their requested slots in May and June, and about 40% of the requested slots in July and August. Further allocation of VSOP time will depend on proposals being ranked by TAC as for any other astronomical proposal.
8. Do we have a timescale for completion of 13cm upgrade and impact on other projects?   The timescales are still unclear. The polariser design modifications are almost complete, and the prototype is in workshop. We are revisiting the LNA design based on the availability of new LNA's (21cm) for Arecibo and the possibility of a new 1-3GHz LNA design to couple in with the new 2GHz CA upgrade.
11. Limited trial for Overseas Remote Observing has been agreed.   Project C1074 (Gaensler) will trial overseas remote observing in 2002MAYT.
12. Will a separate VLBI Facility report be presented at this meeting?   Tasso Tzioumis will present a short report on the LBA operations at the next meeting and will do so as a regular item in future ATUC meetings.
13. What progress on access to ALMA prototypes at Atacama site?   We are actively exploring options to gain access, but do not yet have any agreements in place. Meanwhile, Onsala have kindly agreed to continue Australian access to SEST until Atacama operations start, which is likely to be at least a year away.
15. Have AIPS++ test teams been trialled? (Neil Killeen)   This is a continuing action - unfortunately pressure of other work has delayed these trials.

Other: from our KPI list, we still have outstanding items:
Did ATNF acquire the SETI receiver?   John Reynolds will report on this at the ATUC meeting.
Has there been any progress on the baseline ripple at Parkes?   A solution in software to this long-standing problem is in train. The translator software will be modified to allow moving the focus in a regular triangular cycle about the nominal focus point during a single pointing, thereby "smearing" out the ripple effect. It is hoped this will reduce the effect by an order of magnitude. An alternative option, to line the underside of the focus cabin with absorber, incurs a significant penalty in overall system temperature, and is not being pursued.
Do we still want a Public Outreach workshop?   The ATNF has endorsed a proposal to increase the allocation of resources to public outreach activities and a Public Outreach workshop may be held later this year. This would follow on from the well-attended brainstorming session on Public Outreach goals held by Ray Norris in May 2000 and the statement of public outreach goals presented to ATUC by Jessica Chapman in October 2000.

R.P. Norris, April 2002