Applying for Observing Time

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2018B    Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) Call for Proposals

The main proposal deadline for the AAT in Semester 2018B (August 2018 - January 2019) is:

15 March 2018, at 17:00
Australian Eastern Daylight Time (UTC + 11 hrs)

Proposals to the Australian Time Allocation Committee (ATAC) must follow the new ATAC Policies and Procedures (available at this page) and be submitted before the deadline using the Lens proposal form (available at this page).

Applying for AAT Telescope Time through ATAC

Important information: AAT operations transferring to a consortium of Australian universities

From 1 July 2018, the AAO will no longer operate the AAT. Instead, AAT operations will be managed and funded through a consortium of Australian universities, led by the Australian National University (ANU). Accordingly, the AAO will consult this consortium regarding operational constraints following ATAC’s scientific ranking of proposals and prior to its preparation of the 18B schedule. The expectation is that there will be minimal change to the standard operating procedures for AAT observations following the transition, with the exceptions that, from July, successful applicants will be expected to cover their own travel and accommodation costs to the observatory and will have more limited expert assistance on site. Further updates on the new operational model will be provided as they become available.

Important information: Open Time and Paid Time on the AAT

Australian proposals may seek either Open Time or Paid Time on the AAT. A proposal is Australian if at least half of the proposers and the lead proposer are based at Australian institutions. Open Time is only available to Australian proposals and is free to Open Time proposals; Paid Time is available to both Australian and non-Australian proposals. Non-Australian proposals can only access Paid Time, not Open Time. For 2018B up to 50 nights of Paid Time will be available on the AAT. Inquiries regarding the terms and conditions for AAT Paid Time can be made to the Astronomy Australia Limited (AAL) office.

The time allocation procedure starts with ATAC ranking all proposals by scientific merit, without regard to the Open Time or Paid Time status of the proposal. Paid Time proposals will be allocated to Paid Time in order of ATAC ranking (subject to practical constraints) until the available Paid Time is fully allocated. The remaining Australian proposals will then be allocated to Open Time in order of ATAC ranking (subject to practical constraints) until the available Open Time is fully allocated. Paid Time proposals always pay for time allocated.

More details are available in the ATAC Policies and Procedures document at this link.

Important information: proposal preparation

  • Time available for new proposals: accounting for existing Large Programs and Director’s time, there are expected to be 138 nights available for new proposals in Semester 18B (31 dark, 34 grey, 73 bright).
  • Due to the reduction in expert assistance at the telescope, proposers are required to describe the relevant experience and expertise of the team with the instrument(s) being applied for. Observers are encouraged to arrive sufficiently in advance of their run to gain such training as is needed for their run.
  • The current Large AAT Programs, the OzDES and DEVILS surveys, have been allocated 31 dark or grey nights at certain RAs. New programs with targets outside of these RAs are more likely to be scheduled. The RA information for Large AAT Programs is available at this link.
  • There will be no Call for Large Programs in 2018B. However, proposals for large amounts of time (30-50 nights) will be accepted in 2018B. A call for Large AAT programs to commence in 2019A is anticipated to be made in August 2018.
  • Proposals for Long Term Programs spanning multiple semesters (more information at this link) will not be accepted in 2018B, but are anticipated to be available again in 2019A.
  • To help address issues associated with unconscious bias (e.g. see study at this link) the format of the proposals has been changed: (1) PI information will not be provided to ATAC, (2) investigator information will be provided at the end of the proposal, (3) the list of investigators will be sorted alphabetically, and (4) investigators are required to use numerical citations for referencing. Lead investigators should avoid directly disclosing their identity in the science or technical justification sections. Feedback on these changes are welcome and should be sent to the AAT Technical Secretary.
  • Based upon historical weather trends, about 33% of time is lost to bad weather. Proposers are therefore required to multiply their time requirement by a factor of 1.5 to allow for time lost to weather

Important information: instrument availability and upgrades

  • It is expected that the Veloce spectrograph will be available for shared-risk observing. Details on the instrument are given below.
  • Veloce will be made available as shared-risk time in 2018B after its scheduled commissioning in 2018A. More details on Veloce’s capabilities are given below and on the Veloce webpage at this link.
  • To prepare for commissioning of the Hector instrument, SAMI will be dismantled during 2018B. If a compelling proposal is submitted, then SAMI may be made available early in the semester before it is dismantled. If you plan to submit a proposal for SAMI, please contact the AAT Technical Secretary.
  • The Observatory intends to decommission IRIS2 at the end of 2018A. The Observatory may consider delaying this by 6 months to the end of 2018B if a compelling proposal can be made. If you plan to submit a proposal for IRIS2, please contact the AAT Technical Secretary.
  • A Target of Opportunity mode is now available with instruments using the 2dF positioner (AAOmega, HERMES) and KOALA. The Target of Opportunity policy is available at this link.
  • HERMES is currently being upgraded, including improving the vacuum hold time of the dewars and the replacement of the field lenses to remove the cause of the high incidence of cosmic rays.

Lens proposal submission system

 The AAO uses an online proposal submission system, known as Lens, which is available at this link. This system is a user account based system, which allows 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.

All new users must 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

Historical oversubscription rates

 The figure below shows the historical oversubscription rates at the AAT. Large program allocations are excluded from these calculations and error bars are from Poisson statistics. The fluctuations are largely dominated by whether Large programs were already scheduled when the call for proposals was made. Numbers indicate the number of nights that were available in each semester.



Status of AAT instruments


Veloce will be a stabilized, high-resolution (R~80,000) echelle spectrograph. Initially Veloce will have only one of its three possible 'arms', each covering a different wavelength region: the first arm (Rosso) will cover ∼580–930nm. Veloce will be fed by a 26-hexagonal-fibre integral field unit (19 target, 2 calibration, 5 sky/background), with an on-sky target area 2.5 arcseconds in diameter and with spatial scrambling through octagonal fibres. The optional simultaneous calibration will be a Menlo Systems laser comb for extremely precise wavelength calibration and/or a Thorium-Uranium-Xenon arc lamp. Veloce will be suitable for observing single targets brighter than i<14 magnitude and will be particularly good for red targets such as cool M dwarf stars. More information will be available on this page. Questions about instrument performance should be directed to the Veloce instrument scientist, Duncan Wright


SAMI is the Sydney-AAO Multi-object Integral-field unit that feeds the AAOmega spectrograph. SAMI provides 13 fibre-based IFUs called 'hexabundles', each with a field of view of 15 arcseconds, that are deployed by plug-plate anywhere within a 1-degree diameter field of view using the AAT's Prime Focus top end.

The SAMI instrument will be dismantled during the 18B semester in preparation for the new multi-IFU instrument, Hector. If a compelling case is proposed, then SAMI may be made available early in the semester before it is dismantled. Since SAMI is a support-intensive instrument and support is no longer provided, any proposers must be trained SAMI pluggers (listed on the SAMI pluggers list) and must have a plan in place for tiling objects on the SAMI plates and producing plate configuration files for plate manufacture.

Before writing your proposal, potential SAMI observers must contact the SAMI instrument scientist Julia Bryant. Constraints on observable targets with SAMI are given at this link. Note that the SAMI 2dFDR data reduction pipeline has been tested using the AAOmega gratings that are used for the SAMI survey (580V and 1000R), but has not been tested with other AAOmega gratings.


HERMES is a four-channel, bench-mounted high-resolution spectrograph for use with the 2dF top end. The wavelength ranges of the four channels are fixed at 4715-4900 Å, 5649-5873 Å, 6478-6737 Å and 7585-7887 Å. The spectral resolution is nominally R∼28,000, which can be raised to R∼45,000. Questions about instrument performance should be directed to the HERMES instrument scientist, Gayandhi De Silva. More information about the instrument can be found at this link.


KOALA (Kilo-fibre Optical AAT Lenslet Array) provides integral-field capability to the AAOmega spectrograph. KOALA has a selectable spatial resolution of 0.7 or 1.25 arcseconds and has good response at the extreme blue. Information on KOALA can be found in the instrumentation page at this link. Questions about performance should be directed to the KOALA instrument scientist, Ángel López-Sánchez.

Remote observing

Remote observing from the AAO's North Ryde headquarters is available as an option for all AAT facility instruments. This will continue to be an option for observers in Semester 18B, by request to Macquarie University, anticipated to be the organisation managing the future AAO North Ryde entity. Questions regarding this can be sent to . It is also possible to observe from the remote observing facilities at ANU and ICRAR. Remote observing is restricted to experienced observers who have used the AAT in the past two years.

Service time

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


The AAO requests all publications based upon data allocated through the AAO include the following acknowledgement:

Based [in part] on data obtained at Siding Spring Observatory [via program XXX]. We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the AAT stands, the Gamilaraay people, and pay our respects to elders past and present.

How to Apply for AAT Time - the Basic Steps

Instrument status and policies

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

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.

If at least half the proposers and the lead proposer 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). Proposers should demonstrate that their team has the skills and experience with the required observing modes to effectively conduct the proposed observations.

Proposals should be written so that the content and significance is understandable by astronomers with different backgrounds.

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 scientific ranking cut-off, when some priority may be given.

After including overheads (detector readout, calibrations and telescope slewing), observers are required to multiply their time request by 1.5 to account for bad weather.

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. Those three pages should include all references and figures, use 11pt font (or larger), and have at least 10mm margins. Numerical referencing should be used (e.g. “as shown by [1]…”, instead of “as shown by Smith et al. (2017)” ). Colour figures are accepted. Other document formats will not be accepted.

Submitting your proposal

When your proposal details are ready, submit your application to ATAC through Lens, the AAT's online proposal submission 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
105 Delhi Rd
North Ryde, NSW 2113
Phone:  +61 (0)2 9372 4800
Email:  Helen Woods (
Lee Spitler
AAT Technical Secretary
Senior Lecturer
Australian Astronomical Observatory &
Macquarie University
Sydney, Australia
Phone:  +61 (2) 9372 4895 (AAO)
Phone:  +61 (2) 9850 4161 (Macquarie)


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Large Observing Programs on the AAT starting Semester 18B

There is no call for large programs starting in semester 2018B. We anticipate that there will be a call for large programs starting in semester 2019A.

More information

Existing AAT Large Program commitments are listed at this link.

The policy for Large Programs is available at this link.



Service Mode Operations Cease on August 1st

Service mode on the AAT will cease on August 1st, 2018.

Effective from June 4th, we will stop accepting new service mode proposals. We will endevour to complete service mode programs that have been accepted prior to this date.

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.

** Due to the transition that the AAO will go through on July 1st, 2018, all service programs may be required to end on 31 July. Note that we hope that we will be able to honour the full 18 months for all programs (both old ones and new ones) - a definite policy will be put in place before 31 July.


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  about 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 four weeks of the proposal being received. 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 the Lens tool
  • Data will be made available as FITS format files. Wherever possible, these will be transferred to user through Cloudstor. 

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

  • For information on the capabilities and sensitivities of AAT instruments, see the AAO Instruments and Documentation Web page which has links to instrument fact sheets, manuals and guides for proposal preparation.
  • If you need further advice then contact the AAO instrument scientist by email.
  • Applications are made through the AAO's Lens Propsoal Management System
  • It generally takes up to four weeks for each service mode proposal to be graded.
  • If the average grade is above 2.5, the program status changes from submitted to pending.

Current Service Observing Programs 

Information on current service observing programs can be found here.

Preparing for service mode observations

Once your proposal has been accepted, you can use you Lens account to submit your observing instructions, and other information, such as 2dF FLD files or finding charts.

  • After logging into lens, select your program ID and then Scheduling/Observing Instructions
  • You'll see a text box where you can enter instructions and an upload button where you can upload files
  • Once submitted, send an e-mail to
  • We will review the material. If everyhing is in order, the program status will change from pending to queued.
  • The observing instructions can be edited at any time, even before the proposal is accepted.

When observations are taken, we'll fill out the observing log and make the data available to you via the AARnet cloudstor facility.

Once all observations are done, the program status changes from queued to completed. If the observations are not done within 18 months of when the progam was first listed as pending, the program status is changed to expired.


AAT service proposal summaries for programs submitted before November 1st, 2014

The following tables provide information on the status of service proposals accepted at the AAT before November 1st 2014. Please note that service proposals expire after a period of 18 months but may be re-submitted at any time. Once all programs that were submitted before November 1st, 2014 are completed, we will no longer maintain the links listed below.

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.

The AAO participates in the OPTICON Transnational Access Program providing travel-related funding to AAT users from EU Member (and Associated) countries. Under the current OPTICON Horizon 2020 agreement (2017-2020), AAO telescopes can carry up to 10 OPTICON nights per semester.

More information about OPTICON (including eligibility criteria) can be found on 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 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. Proposals made to and approved via non-OPTICON mechanisms will NOT qualify for OPTICON travel grant support.