Applying for Observing Time

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2017B    Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) Call for Proposals

The main proposal deadline for AAT in Semester 2017B (August 2017 - January 2018) is:

15 March 2017, at 17:00
Australian Eastern Daylight Time, i.e. UTC + 11 hrs

Proposals to Australian Time Allocation Committee (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 99 nights available for new proposals in Semester 17B (18 dark, 32 grey, 49 bright).
  • The Large AAT Programs, the SAMI and OzDES Surveys, have been allocated 32 dark 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.
  • A separate call for Large AAT Programs has been made for programs starting in 2017B. More information is available at this link.
  • Proposals for Long Term AAT Programs are welcome in 2017B.
  • A new Target of Opportunity mode is now available with instruments using the 2dF positioner (AAOmega, HERMES) and KOALA. IRIS2 is still available in this mode.
  • The Target of Opportunity policy will change starting 2017B and is available at this link
  • To help address issues associated with unconscious bias (e.g. see study at this link) the format of the proposals have been changed: (1) PI information will not be provided to ATAC, (2) investigator information will be provided at the end of the proposal and (3) investigator list will be sorted alphabetically. Feedback on these changes are welcome and should be sent to AAT Technical Secretary Lee Spitler ( . 
  • For semester 2018A, the AAO is planning an intervention on the 2dF fibre cable and on HERMES. Both the 2dF-fed AAOmega and HERMES will be unavailable from February to May 2018. Other instruments that use AAOmega but not the 2dF fibre feed (e.g. SAMI, KOALA) will still be available during this period. More details will be provided in the next call for proposals.
  • The UCLES spectrograph will be available for use in 2017B, but is currently planned for decommissioning in 2018A just prior to the installation of the VELOCE spectrograph.
  • Based upon historical weather trends, about 33% of time is lost to bad weather. From 2016B proposers are therefore required to multiply their request by a factor of 1.5, to allow for time lost to weather.

New proposal submission system

The AAO has moved to a 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 from 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 .

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.

AAT oversubscription rates.

Instrument status

  • The MITLL camera, a red-sensitive deep depletion detector, has been decommissioned and is no longer available for use on the UCLES spectrograph.
  • IRIS2 Multi-Object Spectroscopic (MOS) mode has been decommissioned.

SAMI status

SAMI is now a general-user instrument. 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 and are deployed by plug plate anywhere within a 1-degree field of view using the AAT's Prime Focus top end. For further information about observing with SAMI, see this website, or contact the SAMI instrument scientist Julia Bryant ( Note, the 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 status

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


UCLES is a cross-dispersed echelle spectrograph located at the coude focus offering high resolution and good wavelength coverage. UCLES can receive light from the telescope via a 5 mirror coude train or via CYCLOPS, a 16-fibre single-target Integral Field Unit. CYCLOPS reformats an approximately 3 arcsec diameter aperture on the sky into an 16 x 0.6 arcsec pseudo-slit at the entrance of the UCLES spectrograph. A typical 1" slit will achieve R~50,000 whereas the CYCLOPS 0.6" hexagonal fibres achieve R~70,000. UCLES has a 31.6 lines/mm echelle grating, and a 79 lines/mm echelle grating. For questions regarding UCLES or the CYCLOPS IFU please contact the Instrument Scientist, Duncan Wright (

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, Ángel López-Sánchez (

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. 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. From semester 16B, it will be possible to observe remotely from the remote observing facilities at the ANU and ICRAR. Use of these facilities will be restricted to experienced observers who have used the AAT in the past two years. Observers wishing to use these facilities will not be eligible for travel support from the AAO. 

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.


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

Based [in part] on data acquired through the Australian Astronomical Observatory, [via program XXX].

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 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. 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.

After accounting for overheads (detector readout, calibrations and telescope slewing), observers are required to factor in an additional 50% 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. Colour figures are accepted. Other document formats will not be accepted.

Applicants seeking Long Term status may be allowed to submit up to five pages, provided prior permission is obtained well in advance from the ATAC Secretary, Helen Woods (

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 (

Custom text: Link: view

Request for Proposals for Large Observing Programs on the AAT starting Semester 17B

The AAO aims to provide opportunities for Australian and international astronomers to make effective use of the Anglo-Australian Telescope’s (AAT) unique capabilities to address major scientific questions through large observing programs. These large observing programs may use any general-user instrument at the AAT: AAOmega, KOALA, SAMI, IRIS2 or HERMES. 

The AAO is issuing a Request for Proposals for major new observing programs to commence in semester 17B. All proposals will be evaluated by the Australian Time Allocation Committee (ATAC). Ambitious projects are encouraged, and the AAO expects large observing programs to be awarded a total of at least 25% of the available time on the AAT; in some past semesters, Large Programs have been allocated almost 50% of the available time. Existing AAT Large Program commitments are listed at: at this link.

All proposals should be submitted with the standard online AAT application system Lens, which will open on 15 February 2017. Non-standard page limits and section headings will apply as outlined below. The case for the proposed large observing program must include:

1. A major, compelling and feasible scientific program. The proposal should focus on key questions that the observational data would address, but should also outline anticipated secondary uses of the data by the broader community. ‘Major’ in this context will generally mean programs requiring 50 nights or more (there is no set upper limit), possibly extending over several semesters. The science will be expected to be groundbreaking and not just incremental. Proposers need to discuss what their program will achieve in comparison with other on-going and future programs on similar timescales. The scientific program should be described in no more than 5 pages (including figures, tables, and references).

2. An observing strategy describing the provision of the input target sample, the detailed plan for the observations (number of nights including the standard allowance for weather, cadence of time-critical observations, and total duration of the project), the proposed instrumental setups, constraints on weather conditions or timing of observations, signal-to-noise or other figures of merit required to achieve the science goals, and any special support needed for the observations. The number of targets, required data quality, sensitivity limits and other relevant information should be rigorously justified. Programs requiring multiple visits to the same field should present a strategy for updating targets to achieve optimum efficiency. The observing strategy should be described in no more than 2 pages.

3. A management plan outlining the collaboration involved in the program, the sharing of responsibilities for scientific management; the planning of observations; the carrying out of observations; data reduction; quality control at each of these stages; data release to the AAO community and compliance with International Virtual Observatory Alliance standards; and finally, data analysis and exploitation by the proposing team. Specifically, the plan should address the following issues.

a. Data reduction procedures and requirements: what are the team's specific data reduction needs and their capacity to support these needs.

b. Funding: what resources have been secured (or are being secured) to support team personnel, and what is the duration of this funding?

c. Observing management: what observing experience (directly applicable to the AAT instrument to be used) do team members have, and how many have indicated a willingness to participate in observing runs? The AAO expects all Large Program teams to become self-supporting at the AAT, in terms of including observers who are already competent with or are willing to be trained in the operations of the instrument(s) for the program without additional AAO staff support.

The plan should outline the roles of all team members and how members contribute to carrying out the program. Proposers may also wish to suggest a publication strategy, including the process for determining authorship. The management plan should be described in no more than 2 pages.

4. A project timeline, including the observational and analysis aspects, with milestones and regular reviews by ATAC during the course of the program.

5. An outreach plan. Proposers should plan for significant public outreach, and the proposal should explain the broader impact of the project. The timeline and outreach plan, together, should be described in no more than 1 page.

Proposers are encouraged to form broad collaborations across the Australian and international communities in support of their programs. The PIs for large programs will generally be expected to commit to the project as the main focus of their research over the program’s duration. Proposers should also familiarise themselves with the method of time accounting at the AAT (see this link) as well as the conditions for Long-term projects at this page.

Proposals for large observing programs should be submitted to ATAC by the standard proposal deadline of 5pm 15 March 2017.

The number of large programs to be awarded time will be determined with a clear preference for a small number of very high quality programs delivering high impact science as quickly as possible. Within these guidelines, ATAC will award time based on considerations including the relative scientific merit and impact of the large programs and standard programs, the quality of the management, publication and outreach plans, and the phasing of programs to provide a steady rollover of large programs for the longer term. A panel of independent expert referees will be asked to provide comments on the proposals; proposers will be given the opportunity to respond to the referees’ comments. ATAC will, at its discretion, seek progress reports (which may be refereed) at various stages of the project. If proposals of sufficient merit are not received in this call, an additional call will be made for semester 18A.

Anyone considering submitting a large program proposal should contact the AAO Director ( director [at] ) to discuss their plans.

Warrick Couch
AAO Director
1 February 2017

More information

Existing AAT Large Program commitments are listed at this link.

The policy for Large Programs is available at 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  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.