About ATNF

CSIRO's radio astronomy observatories are collectively known as the Australia Telescope National Facility, or ATNF. The ATNF is operated and managed by the Space and Astronomy business unit of CSIRO — Australia's national science agency. The business unit was until May 2021 known as CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science. The facility supports Australia’s research in radio astronomy and can be used by researchers from institutions all over the world.

ATNF's Headquarters are located in the Sydney suburb of Marsfield, with offices also located in the Perth suburb of Kensington, and at the MRO Support Facility in Geraldton.

Our vision

We operate world-class radio astronomy facilities for users from across Australia and around the world. We are global leaders in technology and research, exploiting the world’s premier radio quiet site. We attract and retain the best staff.

Our mission

To develop and operate world-class National Facilities in radio astronomy:

  • Operate the ATNF as a financially viable and user‑focused research facility for the benefit of the Australian and international communities
  • Play a key role in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, covering in-country operations, science leadership and technology development
  • Deliver world-class science through exploitation of our southern location and technological advantages
  • Develop, apply and commercialise our innovative technologies and big data processing techniques
  • Foster a diverse and creative workforce.

Our telescopes

The ATNF operates four telescopes:

  • Parkes Observatory is home to the CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope, Murriyang, on Wiradjuri Country. Our iconic 64-metre telescope (also known as 'The Dish') has been successfully operated since 1961, and upgrades including an upcoming new receiver, the cryogenically cooled phase array feed (CryoPAF), are helping to maintain its international standing as a state-of-the-art instrument.
  • CSIRO's Australia Telescope Compact Array a set of six 22-metre diameter antennas located at the Paul Wild Observatory near Narrabri on Gomeroi Country. Each of these antennas has a reflecting surface with a diameter of 22 metres. ATCA's agility helps it respond to unpredictable astronomical events, in some cases almost instantaneously.
  • ASKAP, located at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory on Wajarri Country in Western Australia. ASKAP is made up of 36 antennas, each 12 metres in diameter, working together as a single instrument. Ongoing optimisations are ensuring ASKAP operates with the highest possible observing efficiency as the first national research facility to provide science-ready data products.
  • The Long Baseline Array (LBA) a continental-scale network of radio telescopes. In addition to operating independently, the ATNF radio telescopes can be used together (and sometimes in conjunction with other antennas in Australia and New Zealand) as part oft the LBA, this includes the above telescopes, the Mopra radio telescope, and the Hobart and Ceduna antennas operated by the University of Tasmania for a technique known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI).

CSIRO also manages the astronomy use of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex 70-m and 34-m antennas at Tidbinbilla. NASA/JPL makes approximately 5% of 70-m antenna time available to astronomical research programs.

We are developing several new receivers and backend processing systems in collaboration with our partners at Australian universities, and support from the Australian Research Council. Technical research and development supporting upgrades of the ATNF, as well as for the new ASKAP instrument, are conducted at CSIRO Space and Astronomy headquarters at Marsfield.

Our telescope users

Each year the ATNF is used by nearly 1000 astronomers from around 35 countries. Observers use the ATNF without charge in keeping with the general practice of the worldwide astronomy community, in which telescope users from different countries gain reciprocal access to facilties on the basis of merit.

Observing time is awarded to researchers by a Time Assignment Committee (TAC). The TAC is appointed by the Australia Telescope Steering Committee. Telescope users are represented by the Australia Telescope Users Committee.

Our impact

The ATNF is one of the world's most advanced radio astronomy facilities:

  • It is the only major radio astronomy facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere, offering a unique view of the sky across a broad radio spectrum
  • It is the largest single astronomical institution in Australia and roughly 80% of Australian radio astronomy is carried out with the ATNF, and
  • Research conducted with the ATNF has high-level impact – in an independent study in 2008 the Australia Telescope Compact Array ranked second in the world among radio telescopes, and the Parkes radio telescope third, in terms of the total number of citations to research papers (Trimble and Ceja (2008) Astron. Nachr., 329, 623–647).

Further information

Further information is available from the drop-down menus under the tabs at the top of this page.


Page last updated: 15-oct-2023 pge