Dishes of the Australia Telescope.

Australia Telescope antennas near Narrabri, NSW.

Making world-class telescopes accessible

ATNF provides around-the-clock services to users of the Australia Telescope: 400 people each year, from 20 countries.

  • 6 August 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011

CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) supports radio astronomy by operating radio telescopes at three observatories in New South Wales:

  • six 22-metre diameter antennas (dishes) near Narrabri (the Australia Telescope Compact Array)
  • a 64-metre diameter antenna near Parkes (the Parkes telescope)
  • a 22-metre diameter dish near Coonabarabran (the Mopra telescope)

About 90 per cent of radio astronomy done in Australia is done with these telescopes, which are collectively referred to as the Australia Telescope.

CSIRO operates the Australia Telescope and it is one of the world’s most powerful and sophisticated radio

telescopes. The Australia Telescope Compact Array is the only major telescope of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Facilities

CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array is the only major telescope of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

The ATNF provides users of the Australia Telescope:

  • 24-hour-a-day observing support
  • ‘remote observing’: the ability to observe (with the Compact Array) over the internet
  • online archive of Compact Array data back to 1990
  • custom-designed and customised software tools for processing Australia Telescope data
  • computing support
  • observer training
  • documentation of telescope systems for observers
  • accommodation at the observatories.

Telescope users also benefit from:

  • unique or rare technical capabilities of the telescopes:
    • wide-bandwidth measurements
    • extremely accurate polarisation measurement
    • multibeam observations
    • simultaneous observations at different wavelengths.
  • techniques supported by the telescope, such as:
    • mosaicing (piecing together a large field of view from many separate telescope ‘pointings’)
    • pulsar gating (synchronising observations to fall the between the regular ‘flashes’ of a pulsar’s signal)
    • tied-array mode (a special way to combine the signals received by the Compact Array).


Who uses it?

About 400 researchers use the Australia Telescope each year. Ninety percent are from outside CSIRO:

  • 80 are from 14 Australian institutions
  • 280 are from 120 institutions in 20 other countries.

CSIRO astrophysics staff use the Australia Telescope for their research. CSIRO astrophysics staff also co-supervise 25-30 PhD students with Australian universities. These students use the Australia Telescope for their thesis projects.

Astronomers from Australia and overseas are invited to apply for observing time on ATNF telescopes. Observing time is awarded by the Time Assignment Committee on the basis of the merits of the proposed research. Please note that the ATNF does not employ telescope operators and observers are required to be present for their observations.

Application deadlines and observing terms

Observing
semester
Closing date
for applications
Term duration  Time assignment
meeting
October June 15 1 October-31 March July
April December 15  1 April-30 September February

Read more about CSIRO's Astronomy & Space Facilities.