Australia Telescope Users Committee

Report to the Director on the meeting held at the Australia Telescope National Facility,
Epping NSW on Friday November 10 1995.

(edited version)

The AT Users Committee meeting commenced at 0845 and ended at 1500. Members present were Professor P M McCulloch (chair), Dr D Blair, Dr J Bland-Hawthorn, Dr R W Clay, Dr P J Hall, Dr K Jones, Dr S Johnston, Dr M Mazzolini, Dr R P Norris, Dr J Reynolds, Dr S Ryder, Dr E Sadler, Dr L Staveley-Smith (secretary), and Dr G White. Apologies were received from Dr M Burton, Professor K Freeman, Dr M Drinkwater, Dr R Vaile and Dr P Wood.

After preliminary discussions the meeting was open to any interested users from 0900.

The Chairman thanked retiring members Drs M Burton, M Costa, M Drinkwater, P Hall, and G White for their contribution to the Users Committee. A special vote of thanks was extended to the retiring secretary Dr L Staveley-Smith for all the work he has done over the past few years.

Matters arising from the Director's comments on the previous ATUC report.

1. ATUC requests that User Committee notices be e-mailed to all AT users, with a request that any comments or items for discussion at Users Meetings be sent to the chairman.

2. ATUC congratulates John Whiteoak and Mark Price on their efforts to minimise radio frequency interference at the AT sites. The pollution of the radio spectrum is a growing problem worldwide and in Australia in particular. Even the lowest levels of radio pollution can totally jeopardise important scientific investigations and waste valuable research facilities. The problem of radio pollution affects not only scientific investigations, but also technical and industrial applications. Various technical solutions to radio pollution may be possible, but in all cases their implementation will be extremely expensive. The principle of 'polluter pays' is being widely discussed and implemented in the case of physical pollution, eg carbon tax for CO2 greenhouse effect. The same principle should be applied to radio pollution. Given the Australian Government's commitment to radio astronomy through the provision of facilities such as the AT, the users committee believes that it may be possible to promote the concept of a small pollution surcharge as a way of paying for pollution control when it becomes really serious. The committee requests that the AT initiate a project on computer techniques for the rejection and supression of RFI. The ATUC believes that the radio astronomy community and the ATNF in particular should be proactive rather than reactive in its protection of the radio spectrum.

3. ATUC request that the ATNF provide priority booking on a workstation at Epping for users wishing to do remote observing. This facility should have all the necessary printed documentation and have the ability to run SCHED.

4. ATUC accepts the rewording of the policy on Target of Opportunity proposals and the clarification of the concept of an 'alert' proposal.

Business matters:

5. ATUC supports the concept of a joint ATNF/AAO symposium in Melbourne on March 22nd 1996 and agrees to help with the organisation.

6. ATUC congratulates the Director on his initiatives in negotiating with ESO in an effort to obtain funding for the AT upgrade.

7. ATUC sees the inclusion of the 18-25 GHz front ends and the 3/7mm front ends in the same dewar as a reasonable compromise. However ATUC would like to see the lower frequency limit of the 18-25 GHz receiver extended downwards to allow wide band continuum observations well away from the water resonance line.

8. ATUC commends the AT engineering staff on the performance of the 3 mm receiver at Mopra. However users would like to be able to change frequency much more often than is currently possible and at least once a day. ATUC would prefer that remote tuning was available and would be prepared to accept a short delay (up to a month) in the re-installation of the receiver if that would allow the necessary work to be performed. However if this is not possible ATUC suggests that a trained local operator could provide an interim solution.

9. ATUC have been informed that the Compact Array archive is unusable from outside the AT and request that this archive be made available on the World Wide Web.

10. ATUC is concerned at reported delays in the Multibeam instrumentation for Parkes and the likely interaction this will have with the Galileo project. The Users Committee requests that a report on the status of these projects and their interaction be prepared for the next users meeting.

11. ATUC urges both the Multibeam group and the Pulsar group to release data obtained with multibeam instrumentation as soon as possible. This data should take the form of calibrated spectra from the Multibeam group, and pulsar positions and periods from the Pulsar group.

12. ATUC requests the Director to investigate, as a matter of urgency, ways of supporting VLBI in Perth through discussions with David Blair and Peter McCulloch. ATUC also requests the Director to investigate the future status of the ESA antenna in Perth. ATUC has asked David Blair to prepare a position paper on VLBI at Perth for discussion at its next meeting.

13. ATUC asks the ATNF to include an appropriate reference in its World Wide Web page, such as a "What's New" page, so that users can be alerted to recent developments and problems.

14. ATUC endorses the concept of a second water vapour radiometer at Narrabri and believes that this would be a worthwhile development.

15. ATUC request that users be polled about their views on the scheduling of CA configurations. It was felt that the new scheduling scheme has been operating for sufficiently long for users to have formed an opinion and that there were some concerns about the availability of the shorter baselines.

16. ATUC requests that the role of the TV monitoring of the Mopra control room be investigated. There were conflicting concerns expressed about a possible invasion of privacy and the use of the camera as a security measure. It seems that this camera is not fulfilling its role as a security device as nobody monitors it. It should either be disabled or monitored for security. ATUC believes that if alternative security measures are in place the Mopra observer should be given the option of disabling the camera.

17. ATUC recommends that observers be given priority in accommodation at Mopra.

P M McCulloch

Last updated: 1-December-1995