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ATNF telescope availability - update on the impact of funding reductions

The direction CSIRO will take in response to the recent funding reduction for radio astronomy is becoming clearer. There will be impacts to the availability of ATNF facilities both immediately and in the longer term. However, consistent with our priorities and those of the broader astronomy community, we will continue to deliver on our ASKAP and SKA programs to the best of our abilities, and will make every effort to ensure that these are successful.

At the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia on 23 July I hosted an ATNF Town Hall meeting focussing on the impact of the 2014-15 budget on CSIRO's radio astronomy activity – the presentation is available at the link below.

From 1 October, we will no longer offer on-site observing with the ATCA: observing from the Science Operations Centre in Marsfield, Sydney, will be supported and remote operation from other locations will be available for suitably experienced users. From the same date we will significantly reduce or eliminate routine receiver changes on the Parkes Telescope. We anticipate that only the 10/50cm and the HI multibeam receiver will be available for the October 2014 – March 2015 semester and possibly for the April - September 2015 semester. We recognise that this limits Parkes and Long Baseline Array projects and affects some proposals already submitted for the October semester. Options to support a reduced set of higher frequency VLBI observations including Parkes are still being considered.

CSIRO support of Mopra is expected to cease after the 2015 millimetre season (i.e. after September 2015). Community access to the Mopra Telescope in winter 2015 is not yet resolved. CSIRO has expressed its willingness to explore options for the operation of Mopra beyond the winter 2015 season with external partners.

We will seek to automate ATCA observing with a view to implementing this over time, possibly starting in the April 2015 semester.

CSIRO will evaluate the impacts of other possible changes such as ceasing ATCA observing in one or more of the 3, 7, 12 mm bands, and increasing the fraction of large projects on the ATCA. We welcome community input as we consider the way forward. If the decision is taken to implement such changes we will aim to provide the community with appropriate notice.

In early September we will provide more detail to the user community of the specific impacts on the availability of ATNF capabilities and observing for the coming semester, together with the release of the observing schedules for Parkes, the ATCA, Mopra and the LBA.

Lewis Ball, Director, CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science

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Added by Douglas Bock on 2014-08-11

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