ATNF observing support model

Following feedback from observers and staff, in line with ATUC’s recommendation to separate observing qualification from the issue of regular scientific visitors to Marsfield, and in order to provide a balance between successful observing while removing the onerous travel requirements for large, experienced teams, the ATNF observing support model is:


Parkes typically has 35-40 proposals each semester, with a large fraction of on-going projects, with large observing teams. Consideration of these facts, and limited funding, led to the following model:

  • Each Parkes project is required to designate a Project Expert from within the team who is the first point of contact for observing support for that team.
  • Teams with no member suitable to be the Project Expert for that project should send an observer to the SOC in advance of the scheduled observing to be trained by ATNF Science staff.
  • The Project Expert is expected to be capable of basic fault diagnosis/triage. 
  • First-time observers will be required to come to the SOC, and will be provided with telescope orientation and training sessions to introduce them to observing systems and monitoring tools, and will be provided with assistance for schedule preparation and the first observing session.
  • Observers may choose to observe from the SOC at any time, and will upon request be given a refresher or training session and/or in-person support for schedule preparation and the first observing session.
  • Responsibility lies with the Principal Investigator (PI) to ensure the observers on their team are trained and competent observers.
  • These requirements may be revised if there is a substantial change in the observing set-up (for example, installation of a new front-end or back-end system).


As setting up and calibrating the ATCA is a more complex process, the revised model is as follows:

  • First-time observers are required to observe from the SOC, where they will be supported by the Duty Astronomer (DA) and Operations staff.
  • The Duty Astronomer role is now based at the SOC, and the DA will be present on-site for first-time observers and be contactable at all times, but may provide support from other locations for remote observers (i.e., remote from the SOC).
  • All observers coming to the SOC will be provided with an ATCA Friend for the duration of their stay.
  • The present annual requirement to observe from the SOC in order to be “remote qualified” will be retained for most observers.
  • Regular, competent observers (typically, people observing on at least three separate occasions or for more than 10 days per semester) can extend the time between their return visits by 6 months.


As noted in the call for proposals, only limited support is available for Mopra users in 2015APR, and so proposals for National Facility time were only accepted from teams who are able to be self-supporting, i.e., teams that include experienced Mopra observers who will be responsible for the observing. Observers may conduct their observations from the SOC. Regular, competent observers may observe remotely.


Observers are expected to support the LBA observing effort (not necessarily their own observation, though often this is the case). As the setting-up and fringe-checking is done by Operations staff, the task of monitoring an observation is less onerous, and will be permitted remotely after appropriate training, devised by the LBA Lead Scientist in consultation with Operations staff, has been given. This will permit remote monitoring for experienced LBA observers, in a regime independent of the normal ATCA/Parkes remote qualification regime.

For further information contact Philip Edwards, ATNF Head of Science Operations (philip.edwards [at]


Last modified: 30-apr-2015