About the ATNF


The galaxy NGC 253, photographed in visible light (top) and imaged in radio waves. The colour coding in the radio image shows how the galaxy is rotating. (Optical: © Anglo-Australian Observatory. Radio: B. Koribalski et al./ATNF)

What’s in space? Stars, planets, galaxies … and more.
For thousands of years we could learn about the Universe only by light – light emitted by the Sun and stars, or reflected from the Moon, the planets, comets and asteroids. But in the twentieth century astronomers found they could use other tools, such as ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and radio waves. They uncovered the invisible Universe.

Radio astronomy is one of the major branches of modern astronomy. Studying the radio waves emitted by stars, galaxies and gas clouds gives us a deeper understanding of how these things work, just as an X-ray of a human body adds to what we can learn from an ordinary photograph.

The Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) supports Australia’s research in radio astronomy, by operating the Australia Telescope, a set of eight individual radio telescopes.

Part of CSIRO

The Australia Telescope National Facility is part of Australia’s largest national research institution, CSIRO. It has the status of a Division, one of CSIRO’s business units.

A National Facility

National Facilities let researchers around the country access major research instruments that would be extremely expensive for a single university to run. The Australia Telescope is operated as a National Facility under guidelines originally established by the Australian Science and Technology Council.


The Australia Telescope National Facility was created in 1989. Its immediate “ancestor” was the CSIRO Division of Radiophysics.

More about the history and achievements of the ATNF and Division of Radiophysics.

Size and funding

The ATNF is the largest single astronomical institution in Australia. It has about 145 staff and an annual operating budget of about A$23M.

For more details see the current ATNF annual report.

Telescope Users

Researchers from around Australia and all over the world can apply to use the Australia Telescope. Observing time is awarded by the ATNF Time Assignment Committee, according to the merit of the proposed observing program. More than 80% of the Australia Telescope’s users are from outside CSIRO. The Australia Telescope is in heavy demand: there are many more requests to use it than can be accommodated.

For more details see the current ATNF annual report.

Drs Jill Tarter (left) and Lee Henrickson, observing with the Parkes telescope.
Photo: Seth Shostak