Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF)

Paul Wild Observatory

Figure 1. The Australia Telescope Compact Array at the Paul Wild Observatory. Image credit: CSIRO.

Parkes Radio Telescope

Figure 2. Parkes Radio Telescope.

The Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) is an Australian radio astronomy facility opened in 1988. It is operated by CSIRO. ATNF consists of eight radio telescopes at three separate sites in New South Wales and is designed to use the aperture synthesis technique of mapping astronomical sources.


The Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), located at the Paul Wild Observatory at Culgoora near Narrabri, consists of six antennas, each 22 meters (72 feet) in diameter. Five can be moved along a common east-west track, 3 kilometers (2 miles) long. The sixth is on its own track a further 3 kilometers to the west.


Greater resolving power is achieved by linking one or more of the antennas in the Compact Array with a seventh 22-meter dish, known as the Mopra Telescope, 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the south near the Siding Spring optical observatory and the town of Coonabarabran, and the 64-meter (210-foot) radio telescope at the Parkes Observatory, which has been in use 1961 and is a further 200 kilometers (120 miles) to the south. Together, these antennas form the Long Baseline Array.


A notable feature of the Australia Telescope is the particularly large range of wavelengths at which it can observe. This facility makes it possible to map the emission from interstellar molecules of spectral lines in the radio region of the spectrum.


Paul Wild Observatory

Paul Wild Observatory is a radio astronomy observatory, near Narrabri, that forms part of the Australia Telescope National Facility (see Figure 1). The Narrabri site contains the Australia Telescope Compact Array, which consists of five antennas located along a 3-kilometer rail-track, and a sixth antenna 3 kilometers further to the west.


Mopra Telescope

The Mopra Telescope is a 22-meter radio antenna that forms part of the Australia Telescope National Facility. It is intended for use in conjunction with other ATNF antennas – the six 22-meter dishes at Narrabri, and the 64-meter dish at Parkes Observatory – to form the Long Baseline Array. Like the Parkes antenna, it is also used for single-dish operation; millimeter-wavelength receivers are to be installed in the future.


Parkes Observatory

Parkes Observatory is the principal radio astronomy observatory of the southern hemisphere. Operated by the Australia Telescope National Facility and located 20 kilometers north of Parkes, near Sydney, New South Wales, its main instrument is the Parkes Radio Telescope.


Parkes Radio Telescope is a fully-steerable 64-meter (208-foot) dish-type instrument (see Figure 2). The second largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, it was completed in 1961. Since then it has been used almost continuously for astrophysical observations, tracking spacecraft, and SETI. It was the star of the film "The Dish" which dramatized its role in sending images of the first manned Moon landing to the rest of the world.


The design of the Parkes Telescope proved so successful that NASA used it as the basis for the 64-meter dishes of the Deep Space Network located at Goldstone (California), Madrid, and Tidbinbilla (Australia). In 1987, the Tidbinbilla instrument was extended to 70 meters making it the largest fully-steerable radio telescope south of the equator.