ATNF Telescope Status for 2020APR

All ATNF Telescope Applications for 2020APR must be submitted using OPAL.

Cover sheets from previous semesters should be re-loaded into the cover sheets editor and carefully re-checked before (re-)submitting a proposal.

The deadline for all proposals is 06:00 UT (17:00 Sydney local time), Monday, 16 December 2019 .


For 2020APR, ATNF proposals will be accepted for the:

  • Australia Telescope Compact Array;
  • Parkes 64m telescope;
  • Tidbinbilla 70-m (DSS-43) and 34-m (DSS-34) antennas; and
  • Long Baseline Array.

What's new in 2020APR?

  • Note that Large Proposals (>400 hours over the lifetime of the project) are now required to include in their justifications a section describing team roles/contributions (see the OPAL Users Guide).
  • ATCA: The ATCA Legacy Projects started in 2016OCT and it is expected these will be scheduled at the 25%--35% level in 2020APR. See the ATCA section below for more details.
  • ATCA: NAPA proposals for rapid response observations (within ~10 minutes of an alert) are welcomed. A rapid response mode for the ATCA is now in operation.
  • Parkes: The DHAGU webpage based control system is now the default system for control of the telescope when using the UWL receiver and the MEDUSA backend. For those still wishing to use DFB4 then TCS remains the control system.
  • Tidbinbilla: The Tidbinbilla 70m antenna will be off-line for a prolonged maintenance period during most of 2020.
  • Mopra: Mopra is no longer being offered as a National Facility telescope. Some availability for LBA observations during 2020APR may be possible.
  • LBA: LBA proposers are reminded of their responsibility to contribute to LBA observing support.


General Information

Target of Opportunity proposals can be submitted at any time.

Large Projects are projects that require a total of more than 400 hours of observing time over the lifetime of the project. Please read the Large Projects web page in addition to the information on this page. As noted above, Large Proposals are now required to include in their justifications a section describing team roles/contributions.

New users are advised to read the information on the ATNF Scientific Support of Facilities. This web page explains the different levels of support provided to proposers and observers.

Observing support and remote observing qualification requirements were changed in February 2015 and are described in the ATNF observing support model.

A document outlining Time Assignment Committee procedures is now available from the TAC web page.

For further information contact Phil Edwards (Philip.Edwards [at]


ATCA picture and link


ATCA Legacy Projects

It is anticipated ATCA Legacy Projects. will continue to be allocated 25%--35% of observing time on the ATCA in 2020APR. There is no proprietary period for the raw data from Legacy Projects. This is to maximise the scientific outcomes from the large fraction of observatory time they represent, and to enable timely follow-on observations.

ATCA Observing

The default location for observing with the ATCA is the Marsfield Science Operations Centre (SOC). All observers who require support in scheduling and/or observing, or those who need to be requalified as remote observers, must visit the SOC for their observations. Observing at the Narrabri site is encouraged for observers who wish to visit the observatory, and for complex or non-standard observations, or in other circumstances where this is the more sensible option. Remote observing from other locations is permitted for suitably qualified observers. The Narrabri observatory is considered a remote observing site with regard to support levels for normal observations.

Array configurations

For 2020APR, the array configurations 6A, 6B, 1.5A, 750B, EW352, H214, H168, and H75 will be offered. The 2019OCT semester will end in H168 array and so this may be continued for the first weeks of 2020APR: this does not preclude it from being scheduled again later in the semester. Configurations will only be scheduled if there is sufficient proposal demand for them.

CABB modes

The Compact Array Broadband Backend (CABB) modes that will be available for 2020APR semester are:

  1. CFB 1M: A bandwidth of 2 GHz with 2048 x 1-MHz channels in each IF band, but no "zoom" bands.
  2. CFB 1M-0.5k: A bandwidth of 2 GHz with 2048 x 1-MHz channels and (optionally) a fine resolution of 0.5 kHz in up to 16 "zoom" bands (each with 2048 channels across 1 MHz) in each IF band.
  3. CFB 64M-32k: A bandwidth of 2 GHz with 32 x 64-MHz channels and (optionally) a fine resolution of 32 kHz in up to 16 zoom bands (each with 2048 channels across 64 MHz) in each IF band.
  4. CFB 1M/64M: A "hybrid" mode with 2048 x 1-MHz (but no zooms) in one IF band, and 32 x 64-MHz channels with (optionally) up to 16 zoom bands with 2048 channels across each 64 MHz in the other IF band.
  5. Pulsar binning mode: The normal 2048 x 1 MHz continuum band is supplied for each IF band and in addition, for each IF, a time-binned IF band with 512 x 4 MHz channels and 32 time bins across the period of the pulsar. A minimum bin time of 110 micro-seconds is possible, allowing 32 bins across a 3.5 milli-second pulsar period. All observers who want to use this mode are responsible for providing their own timing ephemerides for their targets; the observatory cannot provide these for you. Ephemerides must be supplied in the tempo2 predictor format.
  6. High time-resolution mode: The normal 2048 x 1 MHz continuum band is supplied for each IF band and in addition, for each IF, a time-binned IF band with 512 x 4 MHz channels and either 128 or 32 time bins across the correlator cycle period (normally 10 seconds, but can be routinely set as low as 2 seconds).
  7. VLBI backend tied-array mode: This allows you to capture up to 2 x 64 MHz dual polarisation bands with both CABB correlations and 2 bit sampled raw voltage output, using the VLBI backend and recorders. Up to 2x16 MHz dual polarisation bands with 8 bit sampled voltages is also available. If you choose to use ATCA in this mode, without requesting any other LBA station or correlation by CASS, you only need to write an ATCA proposal. This mode has some restrictions however, and proposers who are interested in using this mode must contact the LBA System scientist Chris Phillips to discuss what is possible. You must include in your proposal a short description of how you will process the data and data transport logistics.

More information on CABB is available from the CABB web page.

Compact Array receivers and frequency ranges

The 16-cm band receivers provide an instantaneous frequency coverage from 1.1 to 3.1 GHz (although the usable bandwidth is reduced by typically 30% by Radio Frequency Interference [RFI] -- the impact of RFI on the 16cm band can be seen at this webpage.). The 16-cm band receivers have an improved sensitivity over the original 20- and 13-cm receivers, and include new ortho-mode-transducers, significantly improving the polarisation performance toward the top end of the band.

The 4-cm band receivers cover the band from 4 GHz to 12 GHz. These receivers provide significantly improved system temperatures over the original 6- and 3-cm receivers. The focus positions for the antennas in the 4cm band differ from those of other bands, which should be borne in mind if changing between bands during an observation. It takes about 2 minutes to refocus the antennas.

In the 15-mm (16--25 GHz), 7-mm (30--50 GHz) and 3-mm (83.5--106 GHz) bands, two 2GHz-wide intermediate frequency bands may be selected within an 8 GHz bandwidth. In the 7-mm band, both band centres must be either greater than 41 GHz (the point at which the conversion changes from lower side-band to upper side-band) or both less than 41 GHz. Observing is possible with the standard 15-mm and 7-mm systems on all six antennas, and 3-mm systems on five antennas: there is no 3mm receiver on CA06. Note that the 3mm receivers are ageing and that, as spare parts are limited, or non-existent, component failure in a receiver may not be able to be repaired in a timely manner, or at all.

The ATCA sensitivity calculator provides a means of determining the sensitivity characteristics of observations, and can include the reduction in bandwidth expected due to RFI in the 16cm band.

Millimetre observing

Observing at 3 mm generally starts in May and ends in mid-October. Proposers are reminded that the primary flux density calibrator at 3 mm is Uranus, which in July 2020 will be near a R.A. of 2h17m and declination of +13d12m. Proposals for 3-mm observations that require accurate flux calibration should request time for observations of Uranus (if the array configuration allows). For 7-mm observations with CABB, PKS 1934-638 is sufficiently strong to be used as a primary flux density calibrator, and should be preferred over Uranus for all projects. Proposers requiring their own observations of Uranus (at special frequencies, or at a time when their main target has set, for example), should make this clear in the observations table and justification of their proposal. For secondary calibration at 3- and 7-mm, Observatory staff will calibrate a number of bright AGN, spread over the full range of R.A., against Uranus (at 3mm) and 1934-638 (at 7mm) at the standard continuum observing frequencies throughout the semester.

The array is outfitted with Water Vapour Radiometers (WVRs) provided by the University of New South Wales. Experience to date indicates that these units will, in some conditions, allow corrections to the measured phases on longer baselines to be made, improving phase stability and sensitivity. Interested mm-wavelength observers will be able to use of this capability during 2020APR. Details of the system are available at the WVR webpage.

Further information


Parkes picture and link




Important Information

Remote observing with the Parkes telescope, from the Marsfield Science Operations Centre (SOC), the Perth SOC, or from other locations for suitably qualified observers, is the default mode of observing. Observing from Parkes will still be permitted for complex or non-standard observations, or in other circumstances where this is the more sensible option. Although observing onsite is not fully supported (e.g. there is no onsite accommodation), we do encourage site visits during working hours for those interested.

It is expected that proposal teams will be scientifically self-sufficient, with a member of each team being designated the Project Expert and being the first point of contact (most often remotely) for questions relating to the observations after work hours. Inexperienced teams are encouraged to seek experienced collaborators: if this is not possible, the teams should be prepared to arrive at the SOC in Marsfield or Perth, several days before their observations commence in order for observer training to be completed during work hours, so that a member of the team is then qualified for the Project Expert role. All Parkes proposal teams are asked to nominate on the cover sheets of their proposal the member(s) in their team who will be (or will be trained to be) the Project Expert and who will be the first point of contact after hours. Please ensure that the Project Expert is aware of their role and of the times and dates that they may be called upon. Observers at the SOC are able to receive assistance from staff (during business hours) with their observing. Local Parkes staff will continue to provide the first point of contact for matters relating to safety of the telescope, and equipment.

Data from Parkes observations are archived in ATOA (the Australia Telescope On-line Archive) or the CSIRO Data Access Portal (DAP). The DAP now handles high-volume data from pulsar surveys. To manage the archiving process efficiently, it is necessary to know the expected data volume for projects with Terabyte-scale data requirements, and observations will be scheduled accordingly. 

The cover sheet for Parkes proposals specifically requests this information for projects that are likely to gather more than 1 Terabyte of data (noting that projects utilising the new UWL receiver (see below) are likely to exceed this). Further points to note are:

  1. Individual files can not be larger than 100 GB. The output data files from the UWL are automnatically split to ensure this. Observations with DFB4 require manual choice of the file splitting time.

  2. The maximum data rate is limited to 20 Gb/s

  3. If you expect to produce more than 5TB in total during the semester, or more than 1TB in a single observing session, then please state your data requirements in your submission, noting that if you exceed your stated data rate/volume then we may need to delete the data files before you are able to access them and they will not be archived. Please ensure your requested observing cadence does not exceed these limits and please note that the scheduler will endeavour to have enough time scheduled between sessions to ensure that the data can be copied off at <3 TB/day.

Observers are advised that they should adhere to the observing set-up described in their proposal. 

Contracted telescope usage

Breakthrough Listen will continue to be allocated 25% of Parkes observing time, with the program having commenced in the 2016OCT semester. The Breakthrough Foundation is not guaranteed any more than 30% of time at any given local sidereal time (LST) range (hour) each month. Commensal use of Breakthrough Listen data is possible (the data is not proprietary) and does not require a proposal to be submitted for consideration by the ATNF Time Assignment Committee. The BPSR backend is now run simultaneously with Breakthrough Listen observations. 

In addition to Breakthrough Listen continuing their 25% of telescope time allocation, so too does the agreement with an NAOC FAST collaboration which is for ~18% of time over a 3 year period. This will continue as an allocation of ~450-500 hrs in the 2020APR semester (again slightly increased to account for make up time for the impact of the NASA Voyager track in 2018OCT).

Receiver availability

The new Ultra-wideband Low frequency receiver (UWL) will be paired with the Multibeam, MB, by default for the 2020APR semester, with the usual higher frequency installations for VLBI weeks. The UWL serves projects which have in the past traditionally requested the 10/50 receiver. The UWL is offered as a national facility, although some modes of operation remain shared risk. The availability of any other receivers will be driven by proposal pressure, although it should be noted that the performance of some of the receivers is degraded (please contact staff to enquire) and receiver changes are subject to the availability of staff and resources (due to the physical demands of changes). Details of the Parkes receiver fleet and other technical information are available in the Parkes Radio Telescope Users Guide.

For the 2020APR semester, BPSR observations (but not currently HIPSR observations) with the MB have the option to allow for commensal searching for Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). This is the choice of the proposer and can be stated via the coversheet under the multibeam selection. Events picked up through the new commensal system would be made public after the ~1-hour verification period, including publishing a VO Event to facilitate follow-up. We are in the process of establishing this follow-up system, but the basic search algorithm can be run already.

Backend Availability

MEDUSA is a GPU based backend, which is for use with the UWL, and hosts the BPSR/HIPSR functionality. It is intended that this backend will cater for all receivers in the future. For those intending to use the UWL please include details of the backend capabilities required. It is expected that the following modes will be available for the 2020APR semester, with other modes driven by proposals, acknowledging shared risk development:

  1. Pulsar timing with 512 channels across each of the 26 x 128MHz subbands and coherent dedispersion to 2000cm-3 pc, 2048 phase bins and 16 bits (indicative data rate is 25GB per hour)
  2. Pulsar searching with scaled number of channels across the 26 x 128MHz subbands, from low to high as 4096 for the first two, 2048 for the next two, 2048, 1024 for the next four, and the remainder at 512, 64 microsec sampling and 2 bits (indicative data rate is 360GB per hour)
  3. Coherently dedispersed single pulse tracking with 1MHz channels and coherent dedispersion to 2000cm-3 pc, 128 microsec sampling and 8 bits (indicative data rate is 375GB per hour)
  4. Spectral line/continuum slow (up to 3 deg/min) scanning with 332800 10kHz channels across the entire band, full Stokes (indicative data rate is 3GB per hour)
  5. Spectral line/continuum position switching with 332800 10kHz channels across the entire band, full Stokes (indicative data rate is 3GB per hour)
  6. Zoom band spectral line position switching with 0.1 kHz channels across multiple 2 MHz bands selectable within the entire band, full Stokes (indicative data rate is 10GB per hour)

The digital filterbank DFB4 is available for pulsar, spectral line (simple and time-binning), continuum and polarisation (full Stokes) studies. DFB4 contains one CABB processor and one digitiser and has similar characteristics and performance to the original DFB3 for normal pulsar timing, but is limited for short period pulsars. The number of available frequency channels (512 to 8192) allows spectral behaviour analysis and RFI flagging. In combination with either circular or linear feeds they can be used for Stokes Q & U or Stokes V observations respectively. A time resolution down to 0.25s is achievable in time-binning mode allowing fast scanning options (though note in this mode the maximum number of channels is 4096).

CASPSR, a coherent de-dispersion pulsar backend developed by Swinburne University of Technology, is available on a shared-risk basis.

BPSR/HIPSR is available as a 13-beam digital filterbank on a similar shared-risk basis. Two spectral line modes are provided by HIPSR. These modes are (i) a bandwidth of 400 MHz on all 13 beams, with 8192 spectral channels per product and (ii) a bandwidth of 200 MHz on all 13 beams, with 16384 spectral channels per product. It is planned to reproduce the higher spectral resolution modes of the original MBCORR in the new GPU cluster at Parkes, however these are unlikely to be available until some way through 2019OCT: proposers interested in these modes should contact Jimi Green (details below).

    VLBI backends (Mark5B, LBADR) are available for non-LBA VLBI and single dish voltage capture. This allows you to capture up to 2 x 64 MHz or 8x16 MHz dual polarisation bands with 2 bit sampled raw voltage output, or 2x16 MHz dual polarisation bands with 8 bit sampled voltage. If you choose to use Parkes in this mode, without requesting any other LBA station or VLBI correlation by CASS, you only need to write a Parkes proposal. These modes have restrictions however, and proposers who are interested in using this must contact the LBA System scientist Chris Phillips to discuss what is possible. You must include in your proposal a short description of how you will process the data and data transport logistics.

    Additionally, the Breakthrough Listen backend is available for scientific use up to 50hrs per semester, please see this webpage for details and contact Danny Price to enquire as to availability. 

    Telescope Control Software

    DHAGU is now the primary control software interface for use with the UWL receiver. It is based on the system used by ASKAP, the Telescope Operation System. It does not currently interface with DFB4 or CASPSR. The intention is for referenced scanning and on-the-fly mapping to be implemented for the APR2020 semester. The traditional system, Telescope Control Software (TCS), will continue to be used for DFB4 and CASPSR observations. Documentation and training videos are available for the new control software. 

    Further information

    Proposers intending to start a new project are advised to contact the Parkes System Scientist, Jimi Green (James.Green [at], to discuss their requirements and availability of configurations before proposal submission. For further information on all Parkes facilities please refer to the Parkes Radio Telescope Users Guide.


    Tidbinbilla picture and link




    In the 2020 semester the 34-m antennas at Tidbinbilla will have limited availability for single-dish use. The 70-m antenna will be taken off-line in February 2020 for a prolonged maintenance and upgrade period and will not be available again until the end of 2020. Access to Tidbinbilla antennas is provided through the host country agreement, which usually provides approximately 220 hours in total each semester. This is used for both single dish (typically 180 hours per semester) and LBA (typically 40 hours per semester) use. Tidbinbilla proposals remain active for one year. All observations are taken in a service mode when scheduling permits. Successful proposals require the submission of a source list with accurate target and calibrator positions.

    The 34-m antennas are equipped with 2.3, 8.4, 26 and 32 GHz receivers. The 8.4 GHz system is well-suited for radio recombination line observations.

    Tidbinbilla is equipped with CASPER/ROACH spectrometers capable of up to 12 IF products, with up to 32,768 spectral channels, each with 1GHz bandwidth.

    Full details of available frequency coverage and other technical information are available from the Tidbinbilla Information web page. (See also the NASA Deep Space Communication Complex web pages.) An on-line sensitivity calculator is available to assist in proposal preparation.

    For the latest information of availability please refer to the Tidbinbilla website, or contact Jimi Green (James.Green [at]


    LBA picture and link




    For 2020APR semester, the Long Baseline Array (LBA) will use the Compact Array and Parkes radio telescope, together with the Hobart and Ceduna antennas operated by the University of Tasmania. In addition, the Warkworth 12-m telescope, operated by the Auckland University of Technology, is routinely available at 13 and 3cm, and on occasions at 20cm, and the Warkworth 30-m telescope is available at 6.7 and 8.4 GHz and on a best-efforts basis at 4.8 GHz. A limited amount of time may be available with the Tidbinbilla 70-m antenna (although, as noted in the Tidbinbilla section of this Call, the 70-m will be off-line for most of 2020) or one of the 34-m antennas. The availability of the Mopra telescope for 2020APR is currently unclear: it may be included in the requested array, but with the understanding that it may not be scheduled. For the 2020APR semester ASKAP will be unavailable for VLBI. The AuScope Yarragadee and Katherine 12-m antennas may also be available at 13cm or 3cm subject to their availability. The Hartebeesthoek 26-m or 15-m telescopes may also be available subject to its other commitments.

    It is planned in the 2020APR semester to schedule some LBA time at the same time as a European VLBI Network (EVN) session, opening the possibility of joint LBA/EVN observations. The easternmost stations of the EVN are in a similar longitude range to the LBA telescopes, and for sources in equatorial regions, baselines to western European stations are also achievable. Proposals for joint LBA/EVN observations must be submitted separately to both the LBA and EVN at their respective deadlines.

    It is now possible to operate the ATCA in hybrid mode where one frequency chain is setup in VLBI mode and the other frequency chain in ATCA continuum mode (2 GHz bandwidth at 1 MHz resolution). Proposers should explicitly request this mode if they wish to use it, and provide additional scientific justification.

    Constraints on Parkes receiver changes impose limits on the frequency of LBA observations with Parkes, however note that the new UWL receiver means Parkes can be included in VLBI observations between 700 MHz and 4 GHz at almost any time.

    LBA proposers are reminded that a member (or members) of the proposal team will be required to assist with the VLBI observing on the ATNF telescopes. Please ensure that a member of the proposal team will be able to help. Note that due to logistical constraints the VLBI schedule usually is release only a few weeks before observing, so the observer will need to be qualified for remote observing with Parkes and ATCA, or able to travel to the SOC in Sydney before the LBA session in time to be trained.

    Other telescopes may be also requested for special observations. Specific system availability may be dependent on availability at individual antennas. For details consult the ATNF VLBI webpages.

    A Novices Guide is available for potential first-time users from the VLBI webpage.

    The LBA VLBI sensitivity calculator no-longer seems to run on any modern web browser. Efforts are underway to develop a new version of the calculator. Until that time proposers may contact Chris Phillips (details below) with any questions related to sensitivity calculations for LBA observations.

    The current capabilities of the LBA are briefly outlined below:

    • The disk-based recording system is used for all recorded VLBI observations and data rates (up to 1 Gbps) can be achieved at most stations.
    • All recorded observations will be correlated with the DiFX software correlator. The software correlator is capable of correlating the high data rate observations at high spectral resolution with arbitrary correlator integration times.
    • Real-time e-VLBI observations are possible -- contact Chris Phillips (details below) if you are interested in this mode.

    User support is available, including assistance with proposal preparation, scheduling, observing and data reduction.

    A bit rate of 256 Mbps (2x16MHz bandwidth in 2 polarisations, with 2 bit digitisation and Nyquist sampling) can be sustained at all LBA telescopes and is the standard observing mode. Observations requesting higher bit rates will need to include a clear justification for the requested rate. Potential users must consult the VLBI National Facilities capabilities .

    For more information contact the LBA System Scientist, Chris Phillips (Chris.Phillips [at]