Old ATNF observing support model (Retired April 2023)

The ATNF observing model requires the proposal teams to provide the observers for their projects. From 2015, observers were required to be present at the Science Operations Centre (SOC) in Marsfield, if they were not qualified to observe remotely. With on-going travel restrictions due to COVID-19, this requirement has been waived and observers are able to be trained remotely. Australia-based observers are able to attend the Marsfield (Sydney) or Kensington (Perth) Science Operations Centres (as internal border restrictions allow), but this is not a requirement. Observers may visit the Australia Telescope Compact Array at Narrabri, if arrangements are made in advance. As further experience is gained with the training and support of remote observers, the ATNF Observing Support model will be further revised.


In the last ~5 years Parkes has transitioned from typically 35-40 proposals each semester, with a large fraction of on-going projects and large observing teams, to 45-55 proposals each semester, with many new projects with small teams (often including new users). Consideration of these facts, and limited funding, require a need for a revised support model. In the short-term we have the following model (adjusted from the previous 2015 one):

  • It is expected that proposal teams are self-sufficient in setting up and conducting observations, with at least one team member of the proposal team designated a Project Expert and being the first point of contact (remotely) for questions relating to the observations after work hours.
  • Inexperienced teams are encouraged to seek experienced collaborators. Information on CASS staff members can be found here and teams can contact the Parkes Science Operations team for assistance (james.green [at] csiro.au).
  • First time observers can be trained remotely, though an experienced observer or Project Expert(s) must be available for their first observation.
  • The Project Expert is expected to be capable of basic fault diagnosis/triage.
  • 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 (for this please ensure that you are using the latest version of the cover sheet). It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator (PI) to ensure that the Project Expert is aware of their role and of the times and dates that they may be called upon.
  • When COVID-19 travel restrictions are removed, observers at the SOC in Marsfield or Perth are able to receive assistance from staff (during business hours) with their observing.
  • During National Facility business hours (0900-1700 AEST/AEDT), remote assistance can be sought via the Parkes Observing PORTAL (less time critical queries can be made also with the Mattermost channel, for which a link is provided through the PORTAL).
  • Local Parkes staff will continue to provide the first point of contact for matters relating to safety of the telescope, and equipment.
  • Responsibility lies with the Principal Investigator (PI) to ensure the observers on their team are trained and competent observers.


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

  • First-time observers are required to complete an ATCA training session (either online or in-person with the DA) in advance of their observations. First-time observers are strongly encouraged to view the ATCA Observing Applications training video in advance of their training session.
  • Inexperienced teams are encouraged to consider including an experienced collaborator in their team. Information on CASS staff members can be found here and teams can contact the ATCA Science Operations team for assistance (rem_obs [at] csiro.au).
  • Observers are supported by a rostered Duty Astronomer and Operations staff. The Duty Astronomy (DA) role can be carried out remotely at the location best suited to their preference. The DA is expected to be on-line to assist teams with the start-up of their observations, unless prior arrangements have been made.
  • Observers visiting a CASS site can be allocated an ATCA Friend for the duration of their stay, and this person will be a point of contact in addition to the DA.


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.


These requirements are likely to be revised once a full review of National Facility observing and support has been conducted (during 2021).

For further information contact Philip Edwards, Program Director for ATNF Science (philip.edwards [at] csiro.au)


Last modified: 18-may-2021