Observational Techniques Workshop 2016

(Image Credit, from left to right: AAT Credit Barnaby Norris, Magellan Credit Las Campanas Observatory, Gemini South Credit: Gemini Observatory, Keck Credit: Keck Observatory.)

Tuesday May 3 to Friday May 6 - AAO Headquarters, North Ryde, Sydney


The International Telescopes Support Office in conjunction with the Australian Astronomical Observatory held the 2016 ITSO/AAO Observational Techniques Workshop from midday on Tuesday May 3 to midday on Friday May 6, 2016 at the AAO Headquarters in North Ryde, Sydney.

The workshop was designed to be an introduction to the optical and infrared facilities available to the Australian astronomical community, and included tutorials and demonstrations where participants were able to get their hands on real data and learn how to reduce it.

A program is available here and the participant list is here. Presentations were given by AAO staff and other local experts, and Dr Kathleen Labrie from Gemini was available to help with Ureka software installation and data reduction tutorials. The data reduction challenge ran by Dr. Labrie had two categories, one for a true to science image and one for a 'Picasso' artistic image. Submitted images were judged by a jury and the winners of the two categories received their own small telescope! ITSO would like to congratulate the winners of the OTW2016 data challenge, Ben MacLean and Danica Draskovic. Other topics covered in the workshop included:

  • Instrumentation available on the Keck, Gemini, Magellan, and Anglo-Australian Telescopes.
  • Imaging and photometry.
  • Characteristics of optical and infrared detectors, and signal-to-noise calculations.
  • Spectroscopy, including high-resolution, multi-object and IFU spectroscopy.
  • Infrared observations, including Natural and Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics.
  • Proposal writing, and how to impress the Time Allocation Committee.
  • Preparing your observations, and where to get help.
  • Data reduction using different packages, including astropy, IRAF and 2dFDR.
  • Data reduction challenges to test out your skills.
  • Analysing and promoting your results.

The workshop was open to all but preference was given to Australia-based students and early-career researchers. Thanks to generous sponsorship from AAL and the Australian government's National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, there was no registration fee. Lunch (on the Wednesday and Thursday), morning and afternoon teas was be provided to all registrants.There was be a workshop dinner, at the Orchard pub in Chatswood on the Thursday evening (6:30-8:30PM).

Remote participation

The workshop was recorded. Stay tuned for links.

Organising Committee

  • Caroline Foster (Chair)
  • Stuart Ryder
  • Richard McDermid
  • Simon O'Toole
  • Elaina Hyde
  • Chris Lidman

For a full story of our workshop see the Twitter Storify session for #ITSOaao!

Workshop Photo



Please direct all enquiries to the Chair of the Organising Committee, Dr Caroline Foster (cfoster -@- aao.gov.au).


Preliminary Workshop Program

Tuesday 3 May 2016
11:30-13:00 Registration  
Chair: Richard McDermid
13:00-13:15 Welcome Warrick Couch
13:15-14:00 Observing preparation and tools [PDF][Video] Elaina Hyde
14:00-14:45 Data archives [URL][Video] Andy Green
14:45-15:15 Afternoon tea
15:15-16:00 Optical and infrared detectors [PDF][Video] Kyler Kuehn
16:00-16:45 An introduction to data reduction [PPTX] [Video] Keith Shortridge
16:45-17:15 Near infrared astronomy [MPG][PDF][Video] Stuart Ryder
Wednesday 4 May 2016
Chair: Stuart Ryder
9:00-10:00 Imaging, photometry and filters [PDF][Video] Lee Spitler
10:00-10:30 Morning Tea
10:30-11:00 Adaptive Optics [PDF][ZIP-movies][Video] Michael Goodwin
11:00-11:30 Introduction to optical and IR facilities [PPTX-mb][PDF-eh][Video]    Elaina Hyde
11:30-12:00 Writing proposals and the TAC process [PDF][Video] Rachel Webster
12:00-13:00 Lunch
Chair: Caroline Foster
13:00-14:00 Introduction to IRAF and PyRAF Kathleen Labrie
14:00-15:00 Imaging data challenge [TAR][Video] Kathleen Labrie
15:00-15:30 Afternoon Tea
15:30-17:30 Imaging data challenge, continued Kathleen Labrie
Thursday 5 May 2016
Chair: Elaina Hyde
9:00-10:00 Basics of Spectroscopy [PDF][Video] Andrew Sheinis
10:00-10:30 Morning Tea
10:30-11:00 Multi-object spectroscopy [PPTX][Video] Caroline Foster
11:00-11:30 Integral-field spectroscopy [PPTX][Video] Sarah Brough
11:30-12:00 High-resolution spectroscopy [PDF] Dan Zucker
12:00-12:10 Official group photo
12:10-13:00 Lunch
Chair: Simon O'Toole

Parallel Sessions

1 - 2dFdr demonstration [PDF]

2 - IFU demonstration [PPTX][Video]

Mike Birchall & Matt Owers

Nicholas Scott

15:00-15:30 Afternoon Tea

Parallel Sessions

1 - MOS/2dFdr hands-on

2 - Keck/MOSFIRE demonstration [PDF][MP4][MP4]

Matt Owers

Themiya Nanayakkara

Friday 6 May 2016
Chair: Elaina Hyde
9:00-10:00 Tips and tools to work with reduced data [PDF] [Video] Jeffrey Simpson
10:00-10:30 Morning Tea
10:30-11:00 Python and Astronomy [ZIP] [git clone] Anthony Horton
11:00-11:30 Telling the world about your result [PDF][Video] Angel Lopez-Sanchez
11:00-11:30 Farewell comments followed by Q&A Caroline Foster
12:00 Workshop Ends

OTW 2016 Participants List

First Name Surname Affiliation
Juan Madrid CSIRO
Noura Alonzi The University of Melbourne
Christina Baldwin Macquarie University
Dilyar Barat RSAA, ANU
Richard Beare Monash University
Sabine Bellstedt Swinburne University of Technology
Khalil Cheikh-Hussein University of New South Wales
Qingxiang Chen ICRAR/University of Western Australia
Leonie Chevalier Swinburne University
Alex Codoreanu Swinburne University
Hadrien Devillepoix Desert Fireball Network, ICRAR, Curtin University
Jodie-lee Dimech N/A General interest
Danica Draskovic Macquarie University
Caroline Foster Australian Astronomical Observatory
George Georgevits Univ of NSW
Michael Goodwin AAO
Elaina Hyde AAO/Western Sydney University
Behrooz Karamiqucham Department of Astrophysics, UNSW
Erik Kool Macquarie University / AAO
Kyler Kuehn Australian Astronomical Observatory
Kathleen Labrie Gemini Observatory
Chris Lidman AAO
Angel Lopez-Sanchez AAO/MQ
Ben MacLean Monash University
Richard McDermid Macquarie University / AAO
Themiya Nanayakkara Swinburne
Colin Navin Macquarie University
Daniel Neri-Larios University of Melbourne
Simon O'Toole AAO
Daniela Opitz UNSW
Alexandra Ruíz RSAA, ANU
Stuart Ryder AAO
Carolina Salgado RSAA, ANU
Neil Shaw University of Southern Queensland
Jeffrey Simpson Australian Astronomical Observatory
Minh Vuong AAO Staff
John Weatherall University of New South Wales
Daniel Zucker Macquarie University / AAO

Data and Code

Data for the workshop sessions can be downloaded from Cloudstor: https://cloudstor.aarnet.edu.au/plus/index.php/s/BB00gNfLHAn8UDc Note that the download of this folder is 5.5GB, so please allow plenty of time! Note that due to a bug in Cloudstor, you should download each file separately (i.e. do not select all and download).

You may want to organise the data in folders. For example, you may want to organise it according to the name of the presenter.












Attendees will also need to download and install the following software, which will run on UNIX-based systems (i.e. Mac OS X and Linux).

TOPCAT: http://www.star.bris.ac.uk/~mbt/topcat/

2dFdr: https://www.aao.gov.au/science/software/2dfdr

See the 2dfdr installation instructions.

The installation script for Ureka is included in the Themiyan.tar.gz file. The script is also available from http://ssb.stsci.edu/ureka/1.5.2/

Note: Ureka includes Python 2.7.5, installing it will not interfere with any Python installs you already have. The list of python modules included is here: http://ssb.stsci.edu/ureka/1.5.2/docs/python_modules.html

If you already have Ureka installed, but it is an older version, then it is advisable to install version 1.5.2. Ureka allows multiple installations and has an easy way of switching between each one. Just type ur_setup --help for help.

Windows users

If you do not have access to a UNIX-based environment (e.g. dual boot, Cygwin, Virtual Machine) you should download Virtual Box: https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

A virtual disk image will be made available in the coming days. Please check back soon.

How to access our new North Ryde premises: for visitors and for couriers

Airport Shuttle bus

For visitors arriving from Kingsford Smith Sydney Airport, there are a number of Airport Shuttle buses that service the North Ryde area. The shuttle service costs around $45 per trip, with cost able to be split between passengers if more than one individual is going to AAO. If you would like to book a shuttle service, please go to Airport Shuttle North's website.

Travelling by car

Approaching from the city, go over the Harbour Bridge or through the Harbour Tunnel then take the expressway exit to Epping/Lane Cove. This expressway will continue through to Epping Road, via Lane Cove Tunnel. Exit the Lane Cove Tunnel to the left onto Epping Rd. At the second set of traffic lights turn right, this is Delhi Road. More detailed driving instructions can be found by going to Whereis or Google Maps.

Please note Sydney has many toll roads and they are cashless; cars passing these tolls need an electronic tag on their vehicle. Visitors to Sydney may obtain visitor passes for automatic tolls by registering for a pass on RTA's My E-Toll website or the Roam website.

For more information please visit Sydney Motorways and their tags and passes page.

By taxi

A taxi from Sydney to AAO North Ryde office costs about $55. From the airport expect to pay around $90.

By bus

Buses from the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) in the City such as bus numbers 288, 290, 292 or 294 cross Delhi Road on their way along Epping Road from central Sydney to Epping Station (and vice versa). Details of current timetables and fares can be obtained from Sydney Buses.

By train

A train from Sydney to North Ryde station will take about 35 minutes, and it is then a 700 metre walk to the office. For more information please visit Sydney Trains.

The street address of the Sydney Office is:

105 Delhi Rd
North Ryde NSW 2113

AAO North Ryde

Accommodation near AAO North Ryde Office

All attendees will need to make their own travel and accommodation bookings.

The tables below show hotels used by observers and guests of the AAO.

Cost per night
Check in/out times
Available transport
Other Information

Quest Serviced Apartments

58-62 Delhi Rd, North Ryde

Ph: +61-2-8899 8888

Across the road $212

Check in: 2pm

Check out: 10am

Within walking distance

Close to the North Ryde Office

Price excludes internet & parking

North Ryde Accommodation House

22 David Ave, North Ryde

Ph: +61 0478 198 133

2.9km $68 - $132

Check in: 2.00pm

Check out: 10.30am

Epping Rd Bus stop - 851m or

Macquaire Park Train Station - 1km

Self-catered accommodation

Internet and parking included

Charrington Hotel

22 Centennial Ave, Chatswood

Ph: +61 2 9419 8461

 4.3km  $99 - $124

Check in: 2.00pm

Check out: 11.00am

 Fuller/Jenkins Rd Bus Stop - 400m

Chatswood Train Station - 440m

Some rooms with free high speed internet 

The Ranch Hotel

Cnr Epping & Herring Rd, Marsfield

Ph: + 61 2 9887 2411

 3.6km  $100 - $130

Check in: 2.00pm

Check Out: 10.00am 

Macquaire Uni Train Station - 635m

Epping Rd Bus Stop - short walk

All rooms with double bed and single bed,


81 Talavera Rd, North Ryde

Ph: +61 2 8874 5200

4km From $141

Check in: 2.00pm

Check out: 10.00am

Epping Rd bus stop - 851m walk

Macquarie Park train station - 1km

Booking via their web page will give you a discounted price

Sir Robert Menzies College

136 Herring Rd, North Ryde

Ph: +61 2 9936 6000


$80 - $127 room

$100 - $112 flat

Check in: 1:00pm

Check out: 9:00am

Waterloo Rd bus stop - short walk

Macquire Uni train station - 14m

Free internet access

Includes three meals a day, bed linen and towels

Prices above are inclusive of GST, per room per night, and are subject to change. Please call hotel to confirm costs.

For a list of hotels in the Sydney CBD or near Sydney Airport, please check the wotif website.





Observational Techniques Workshop Registration

Registration is now closed. If you would like to alter your registation detail or notify the organising committee of your absence, please email cfoster@aao.gov.au.

Workshop Dinner

The workshop dinner will be held at the nearby Orchard pub in Chatswood on the Thursday evening (6:30-8:30PM).

The food cost will be covered but drinks will need to be paid by attendees. Make sure to indicate if you will attend on the Registration form under the "Registration" tab.

Thursday May 5th, 2016

From the workshop at the AAO:
Bus: 545 to Chatswood (2m walk 10m travel time)
Train: 1 stop down (10m walk then 10m travel time)

The street address of the The Orchard Tavern is:

455 Victoria Ave
Chatswood, NSW, 2067

The Orchard Tavern