Applying for Observing Time

Click on the tabs below for information on applying for telescope time.

2015B    AAT Call for Proposals

The main proposal deadline for AAT and CTIO time-swap time in Semester 2015B (August 2015 - January 2016) is:

Monday, 16 March 2015, at 17:00
Australian Eastern Daylight Time, i.e. UTC + 11 hrs

Proposals to ATAC can be submitted until the deadline using the new Lens proposal form and are welcomed from all astronomers worldwide.

Applying for AAT Telescope Time through ATAC

Important information for applicants

Time available for new proposals: Because of existing Large Programs and other obligations, there are roughly 57 nights available for new proposals in Semester 15B (17 dark, 11 grey, 29 bright). A call for Large AAT Programs will not be made in Semester 2015B. Proposals for Long Term AAT Programs are welcome in 2015B.

New proposal submission system

The AAO has moved to a new proposal submission system, known as Lens. This system is a user account based system, which will allow for improved security and better tracking of past and current proposals. There is an FAQ available for Lens, available via the FAQ tab in Lens itself, or via the direct link

Users who have applied for time as PI in the previous semesters (i.e. starting from 2013A to 2014B) have had accounts pre-configured and will have received an email with their login details. Users that applied for time in 2015A will also have a Lens account.

All other users are encouraged to register with the system at

Note that users cannot be added to proposals if they are not registered in Lens. Please make sure that all investigators on a proposal have registered well before the deadline!

For any queries or comments, please email .

Instrument status

  • UHRF has been decommissioned.
  • In 2014B, the red CCD in AAOmega was upgraded. This provides a significant increase in throughput as well as extend the throughput out to ~1 micron. 

HERMES status

HERMES is now a general-user instrument. Questions about expected instrument performance should be directed to the HERMES Project Scientist, Gayandhi De Silva (

KOALA status

KOALA (Kilo-fibre Optical AAT Lenslet Array) has replaced SPIRAL as the integral-field capability to AAOmega. KOALA has a selectable spatial resolution of 0.7"or 1.25", an increase in throughput at all wavelengths, particularly at the extreme blue, and simplified field rotation. Information on KOALA can be found in the instrumentation page and a new exposure time calculator is available. Questions about expected performance should be directed to the KOALA instrument scientist, Andy Green (

Remote observing

Since Semester 13A, remote observing from the AAO's North Ryde headquarters has been available as an option for all AAT facility instruments. We are developing a framework for offsite remote observing at a later stage, in order to allow astronomers across Australia to observe from their home institutions. Until that system is ready, observers who wish to travel to Sydney to carry out remote observations can continue to access the existing Travel and Accommodation support offered to AAT observers.

Service time

If projects require fewer than 6 hours of observing time, they can be performed in service time. Applications for service time are made electronically direct to the AAO and are now accepted year-round. See the AAT Service Observing page for more details.

Applying for CTIO time-swap Time through ATAC

AAO-CTIO time-swap arrangement

The AAO and NOAO/CTIO have initiated a time-swap arrangement, to allow our respective communities to maximise their scientific opportunities through access to a broader range of facilities.

In Semester 15B there will be 5 nights available to the Australian community to apply for CTIO time.

Generally a uniform distribution of lunations will be available to the Australian community. This uniform distribution is particularly important in B semesters (especially Sept-Nov) due to existing CTIO commitments. Note, DECam has been demonstrated to produce useful imaging in the reddest filters (izY) on all but the very brightest nights.

All scheduled observations will be carried out in classical mode with observers required to travel to the telescope.

Note, starting in 2016 only 5 nights per semester will be available through the AAO. Previously, 15 CTIO nights were available in Semester A.

Instruments available

The DECam imager, the ISPI IR imager and the COSMOS spectrograph are available for Australian proposals. COSMOS is available in an imaging and longslit spectroscopy (slitwidth of 0.6" or 0.9") modes. The multi-object spectroscopic capability of COSMOS is now available in a shared-risk mode. 

Please review Current CTIO Instrumentation Status and CTIO Telescope Information for more information.

How to apply

Those who wish to apply for this time should do so using the Lens proposal system, selecting "CTIO 4m" from the telescopes menu on the first page of the proposal form. 

The standard proposal page limits and recommendations regarding technical justifications should be followed. The proposals will be assessed by ATAC, and graded proposals provided to CTIO for scheduling.

How to Apply for AAT Time - the Basic Steps

Instrument status and policies

All ATAC applicants should check the latest Instrument Availability and recent Policy Announcements. If you require further clarification on any issue, then please contact the AAT Technical Secretary ( aatts  @ ).

See Special Override Rules for proposals seeking time as an override on another program's time and the Long Term Program page for those seeking long term status. Proposals requiring at most 6 hours of observing time should be submitted to the AAO's Service Observing program.

If the PI, and at least half the observing team are from European countries, they may apply for AAT time through the OPTICON program.

Proposal content

Full Technical Details, outlining how you derived your time estimates, observing constraints, and any special requests should be included in the scientific case (preferably under a separate section heading).

Proposals should be written such that the content and significance is understandable by a wide range of astronomers. 

If your proposal seeks time on two instruments, outline carefully the relative requirements of the different instrument set-ups, including the split in observing time between the instruments.

If the observations are essential to the completion of a student's PhD thesis, then a full explanation must be given in the science case. No special consideration is given to proposals involving PhD students, except when attempting to schedule proposals near the cut-off, when some priority may be given.

All AAT applicants are required to add on a 33% allowance for bad weather to the total time you estimate you will need to reach the desired signal-to-noise, plus readout, slewing, and acquisition time.

All applicants should be aware that it is the policy of the AAO that any backup project must use the same instrument as the main project.

A list of the principal targets (field centres for AAOmega+2dF programs) should be prepared as a separate PDF document. The target list should contain target name, RA (h m s), Dec (d m s), target brightness, and priority. There is a 2-page limit for this target list PDF file. Other document formats will not be accepted.

Proposal submission details

Prepare your main proposal offline, including an abstract, target list, science case, and technical justification. The science case and technical justification together should be, in PDF format, no more than three pages total, with two pages for the science case and one page for technical justification. The split into two pages science, plus one page technical, is a change from previous semesters. Those three pages should include all references and figures, use 11pt font (or larger), and have at least 10mm margins. Colour figures are accepted. Other document formats will not be accepted.

The limit for pre-approved Long-Term programs is five pages. Please contact the ATAC Secretary, Helen Woods ( well in advance of submitting this kind of proposal.

Submitting your proposal

When your proposal details are ready, submit your application to ATAC through Lens, the AAT's new proposal system. As noted above, this is a user-account-based system and all investigators on a proposal must be registered.

Contacting the ATAC Secretariat 

The Secretary, ATAC
Australian Astronomical Observatory
PO Box 915
North Ryde  NSW 1670
Phone:  +61 (0)2 9372 4800    Fax:  +61 (0)2 9372 4880
Email enquiries:  Helen Woods (

You can view previous AAT Calls for Proposals here.

NOTE: There are currently no calls for Large programs

The last Request for Large Programs can be found via this link.

New rolling application mode

Applications for AAT Service Mode Time will be accepted on a continuous basis starting 1st February, 2015. Proposals will be reviewed and graded as they are received. Review could take up to four weeks, after which the primary investigator will be notified of their grade. Successful proposals will be added to the service queue at that time. Proposals will remain active until observed, or until 18 months has passed since they were first added to the queue. 

Other aspects of the service program will remain the same. The program is described in full detail below.

Proposals are accepted through the AAO's Proposal management system, Lens.



The Australian Astronomical Observatory operates a service observing program at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) for programs that require up to six hours of observing time. Service time is normally allocated for programs that require a small amount of data to complete a program, to look at individual targets of interest, or to try out new observing techniques.

Service proposals are accepted on a continuous basis. The proposals are graded by a three member panel, a process which takes 3-4 weeks, before being accepted into the service program.

In detail, the AAT service proposal system operates as follows:

  • Service proposals may be submitted for programs that require up to six hours observing time.
  • The following instruments will be available for service observations:
  • Applications are invited from all astronomers, worldwide.
  • Upcoming service nights are listed on the AAT Schedule.
  • Service proposals are refereed by a 3-member panel, normally within three to four weeks of the service proposal deadline. The panel consists of an AAO staff member together with two members of ATAC. If further information is required then a service proposal may be returned to the applicant for modification.
  • The referees grade service proposals on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) and an average grade is assigned. To ensure service time remains competitive with scheduled AAT programs, proposals assigned an average grade below 2.5 will not be executed. After a proposal has been refereed, the AAO will advise the sender of the averaged grade assigned by the referees.
  • Service proposals expire after a period of 18 months but may be resubmitted at any time.
  • "FLD" files for 2dF (HERMES or AAOmega) should be sumitted via email to the Service Manager.
  • Data will be made available as FITS format files. Wherever possible, these will be transferred to the proposer by anonymous ftp. Alternatively, files will be written to removable storage media.
  • Information on the current status of service proposals is given in a service proposal status summary.

Proposals are flexibly scheduled for execution based on proposal grade, instrumental configuration, observing conditions and target availability. You will maximise the chances of your proposal being executed if your proposal can make use of:

  • bright or grey time,
  • the most common grating or resolution configuration for instruments which can be reconfigured,
  • less popular parts of the sky, and
  • less demanding conditions of seeing and transparency.


All enquiries regarding the service program should be addressed to the service manager at

How to apply for service time

AAT service proposal summaries

The following tables provide information on the status of service proposals accepted at the AAT. Please note that service proposals expire after a period of 18 months but may be re-submitted at any time.

Service observing reports

A nightly report is submitted by the AAO astronomer carrying out the service observing, which is normally forwarded to the PI of an observed program.

Special Information for specific instruments

2dF (HERMES or AAOmega)

  • Fibres: There are 392 science fibres + 8 guide fibres on each plate, for multi-object spectroscopy.
  • Sky Subtraction: Nod-and-Shuffle sky subtraction is not available for Service Time programs, so dedicated sky fibres must be used.
  • .fld Files: The 2dF robot uses .fld files for positional information for multi-object spectroscopy. We now encourage proposers to submit these at the time of proposal submission, or at least before one of the fld deadlines for inclusion in scheduling. All fld files should conform to the guidelines on the web page Cookbook for 2dF Target Preparation using Configure".fld" files that the configure software cannot load may not be observed.


  • All gratings are available. Grating changes are generally not possible during a night, although grating angles can be changed. Refer to the online AAOmega Grating Calculator.

Key Links for Proposers (and AAO Observers)

Service Proposal Directory
Status of all current programs in the queue for each instrument. (Individual proposal files are also available here for AAO internal access.)
Service Observing Report Form:
AAO internal access only.
Observing Report Archive
AAO internal access only.

The AAO participates in the OPTICON Transnational Access Program (2013-16) providing travel-related funding to AAT users from EU Member (and Associated) countries. Under the current OPTICON FP7-II agreement (2013-2016), AAO telescopes can carry up to 10 OPTICON nights per semester (typically), and possibly more, subject to availability of funds.

More information about OPTICON (including eligibility criteria) can be found below and from the website of the OPTICON office.

Separate OPTICON TAC proposal process

The OPTICON consortium operate a separate Time Allocation Committee, distinct from the AAT Time Allocation Committee, with an earlier submission deadline.

OPTICON-eligible programs should be submitted to the OPTICON TAC and not to the AAT TAC.

The AAT OPTICON nights (approximately 4% of AAT time) are top-sliced from the available time but counted as part of the Other (non-Australian) fraction of AAT time (30% overall).

OPTICON-eligible programs that are unsuccessful in securing OPTICON time will automatically be ranked alongside other AAT programs for the remaining pool of AAT time. If they are awarded nights from this time, they will not be eligible for OPTICON financial support in this round.

Applying for AAT time through OPTICON

    • Proposals must meet certain EU and OPTICON rules for formal eligibility concerning team membership, which can be viewed here. Note in particular the rules concerning the nationality of the PI and co-I's, and also the prohibition on projects which could be applied for by the PI using the national mechanisms open to them.
    • The maximum number of OPTICON nights generally available on the AAT is ten (10). The precise number of nights awarded will depend on scientific ranking and operational constraints.
    • Unsuccessful OPTICON proposals will also be automatically ranked alongside other AAT proposals for competitive access to the non-OPTICON share of non-Australian AAT time.
    • Requests for multiple telescopes for the same scientific project should be included in a single proposal form. Requests for projects with different scientific objectives should be made on separate proposal forms.
    • Any AAT instrument available in this proposal call may be requested. Please consult the AAO Instrument Status Page for specific information about instrument availability, capability and other guidelines.
    • Projects must be scientifically competitive and will be ranked based on scientific merit and technical feasibility. The AAO will attempt to schedule nights allocated by the OPTICON process, subject to practical constraints on telescope and instrument availability with due regard given to EC criteria regarding new users and users without similar national infrastructures.
    • Successful proposers (of the OPTICON-only share of AAT time) will receive travel funds as necessary for them to take up the observing time.
    • Proposals made to and approved via non-OPTICON mechanisms will NOT qualify for OPTICON travel grant support. Note that the results of the OPTICON TAC review will be communicated to the national TACs to avoid undesirable duplication. In the case of linked proposals (for example using national time to prepare for or follow-up an OPTICON-supported run) or where the OPTICON time available is insufficient for the project to be accomplished, please indicate your intention to make a linked application and explain why this is necessary.

 Detailed information on the OPTICON TAC process can be found here.

General Information for all European Applicants

OPTICON Trans-national Access Programme


A wide range of European operated telescopes at different locations, including the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), are offering observing time to external users through the OPTICON1 Trans-national Access Programme. This project was supported by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for 2009 to 2012, and is presently supported under the FP7 Part II extension for 2013 to 2016.User groups from EU Member States and Associated States2, meeting EC criteria of eligibility, who are awarded observing time under this Access Programme via the standard peer-review selection process, will receive free access to the telescope/s concerned, as well as scientific and technical support to carry out the observations. EC funds are also available to cover travel, accommodation and subsistence costs. However, such funds are limited, and priority will be given to new users, young researchers, and users from countries with no similar research infrastructure.To be eligible, both the user group leader and the majority (i.e. >50%) of the user group members must come from Member States or Associated States2. Further information about this EC programme, criteria of eligibility, and the full list of participating telescopes and deadlines, is available at the following address: the Optical Infrared Coordination Network, is a major international project funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7); see the purpose of this EC Programme:
  1. EU Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.
  2. Associated States are: Bulgaria, Croatia, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Norway, Romania, Switzerland and Turkey. Potential participants should confirm the exact situation of all these countries at the FP6 International Co-operation website.