ATUC Business Session Report

14 November 2001

Preliminary Items

Welcome to new members: Brad Gibson, Martin Zwaan, Tony Wong, Steven Tingay, and student representatives Tracy Getts, Daniel Mitchell.

Apologies: David Barnes, Simon Ellingsen, Carole Jackson

Matters arising from Director's Response to previous ATUC report:

6.Scientific Priorities

[c] ATUC noted there was a mismatch in assigned priority in the Future Developments spreadsheet for the 6.7-GHz multibeam system for Parkes (listed as 2 but ATUC assigned 1)

[d] The ranking of the 22GHz multibeam for Parkes was deferred again, pending results from the single-baseline 22GHz survey at ATCA.

7. Observatory statistics

In addition to observatory statistics currently presented at ATUC meetings, we request the oversubscription rate on each facility also be provided.

New Business items

Under Items in progress

ATUC requests a summary of RFI mitigation efforts and a plan for their implementation at the observatories. This information to be presented at the next ATUC meeting.


2. Outreach Program
a) ATUC congratulates ATNF, particularly the observatory staff and organisers, on the success of the Synthesis Workshop at Narrabri. We endorse the recommendation to maintain the present format and location of the Workshop and to plan the next event for 2003. We recognise the effort involved but the benefits are well worthwhile.

b) We congratulate ATNF on the success of the Parkes Open Day. We anticipate a successful Marsfield Open Day.


3. ATUC is encouraged by the plans for growth in ATNF. This will allow more rapid progress on the numerous high-priority engineering projects and allow increased collaboration on astronomy projects with Australian universities.


4. Discussion of ATCA flexible scheduling options
The following comments and recommendations are made:

  • The next 12 months will be a trial period for capturing statistics on mm observing conditions.
  • The decision to interrupt mm observing in poor weather should be made as objective as possible. Eventually, ATUC expects this to be made with the help of data from an atmospheric seeing monitor.
  • Scheduled cm observing projects should not ordinarily be displaced by mm projects in good weather.
  • A ~50% observing overhead should be incorporated by the OIC for scheduled mm observations. Within a single configuration, after the overhead has been exhausted any remaining, unfinished proposals need to be resubmitted.
  • For cm projects, observers should consider whether their project could be run as a "filler program" to be observed by the DA or the scheduled mm observers. The TAC needs to set up a process to handle this.
  • A selection of scientifically-ranked filler projects at mm wavelengths should be built up.
  • ATUC suggests that two duty astronomers during scheduled mm observing time, which could include a postdoc-level "friend of mm" position to take full advantage of the new capabilities.
  • ATUC supports development of automated observing procedures to minimize user interaction during observations. This will reduce the burden on stand-in observers.

5. Given the current manpower limitations ATUC cannot assign a high priority to the production of an online data archive suitable for a virtual observatory. We recommend a feasibility study covering one year of ATCA archival data, accessed through a web form, to clarify the issues of access, usability and cost. This study should include an assessment of what information from the online system and observing logbooks should be stored electronically. Statistics on the number and type of archive requests are needed.


6. ATUC recognizes that the time available at Tidbinbilla under the Host Country Agreement is underutilised. We recommend that applications for observations at Tidbinbilla be ranked by the TAC and that a specific proposal form be created. The facility should be widely advertised to the user community. We suggest a request be made to NASA to upgrade the K-band down-conversion system, because of the current manpower constraints at ATNF.


7. ATUC recommends that the VSOP consortium submit a science justification to the Director for continuation of Mopra support for one year beyond the current agreement, which terminates in March 2002.


8. Given themanpower constraints ATUC considers it is appropriate to combine the 13cm polarisation upgrade with the upgrade of the 20cm receivers. The timescale for the wideband (1.2-3.2 GHz) system is too long to consider delaying the upgrade. We request a timescale for the completion of the upgrade and the impact on the other projects.


9. ATUC recommends a more detailed dialogue between the scientific and engineering communities to agree on an appropriate set of scientific returns from the SKA demonstrators.


Only after these discussions can the specific configuration for the ministations be decided.


10. During commissioning time for the mm system, the announcement of telescope availability should have explicit mention of:

  • the need for a ATNF collaborator,
  • the need to check system status before travelling
  • a single point of contact for both sides (observers and engineers)
  • the possibility that data will be used by ATNF staff to evaluate system performance.

11. ATUC recommends a limited trial of Overseas Remote Observing be conducted. At least the same conditions and restrictions would apply as for current Remote Observing. Link failures occurring outside the observatory should not be counted in the statistics for downtime.


12. We request an Observatory report on the VLBI facility as a regular item at ATUC meetings.


13. ATUC encourages ATNF to start discussions with the ALMA consortium on access to the two prototype antennae to be built at the Atacama site.


14. ATUC supports the implemented ATNF graduate student program changes.


15. ATUC supports the establishment of small groups to test AIPS++ intensively, involving outside institutions and the ATNF. The idea of a travelling roadshow is supported by ATUC.

Anne Green (ATUC Chair)