AAT Call for proposals 2018B


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 2017, 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 https://www.aao.gov.au/lens/register

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 lens@aao.gov.au.

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 questions@aao.gov.au . 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 ( aatts@aao.gov.au ).

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 (helen.woods@aao.gov.au)
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)