Applying for Observing Time

Click on the tabs below for information on applying for telescope time.

2019A Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) Call for Proposals

The main proposal deadline for the AAT in Semester 2019A (February 2019 - July 2019) is:

22 September 2018, at 17:00
Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC + 10 hrs)

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


Applying for AAT Time through ATAC

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

Since 1 July 2018, AAT operations have been managed and funded through a consortium of Australian universities, led by the Australian National University (ANU). Operating procedures for AAT observations following the transition have changed little, with the exceptions that successful applicants are expected to cover their own travel and accommodation costs to the observatory and will have more limited expert assistance on site.

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. There is no charge to Australian astronomers for the use of Open Time. Paid Time is available to both Australian and non-Australian proposals. Non-Australian proposals can only access Paid Time, not Open Time. Inquiries regarding the terms and conditions for AAT Paid Time can be made to Astronomy Australia Limited (AAL).

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.

Important information: proposal preparation

  • Time available for new proposals: accounting for existing Large Programs, Director’s time and instrument commissioning, there are expected to be 159 nights available for new proposals in Semester 19A (56 dark, 37 grey, 66 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 Program, the DEVILS survey, has been allocated 7 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
  • 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

  • Available AAT instruments include: 2dF+AAOmega, 2dF+HERMES and KOALA. Additionally, Veloce will be offered on a shared-risk basis.
  • HERMES will likely undergo two interventions on the cryostats, one in 2019A and another 2019B.
  • IRIS2 has been decommissioned.
  • SAMI will be dismantled by 2019A, to prepare for commissioning of the Hector instrument.
  • Target of Opportunity mode is available with 2dF+AAOmega, 2dF+HERMES and KOALA. The Target of Opportunity policy is available at this link.
  • Additional instrumentation status information is available here.

Lens proposal submission system

All proposals should be submitted with the AAT's online application system Lens, which will open on the day this call is made. This system is a user account based system, which allows for improved security and better tracking of past and current proposals. There is a FAQ available for Lens online, or available via the FAQ tab in Lens itself.

All new users must register with the system.

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 folllowing figure 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.


How to Apply for AAT Time 

Instrument status and policies

All ATAC applicants should check the ATAC Policies and Procedures, the latest Instrumentation Status for the AAT and recent Policy Announcements. Those seeking long term status should refer to the Long-term Programs page. For further clarification on any issue, please contact the ATAC Technical Secretary.

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.

Any backup project must use the same instrument as the main project.

A list of the principal targets (field centres for 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.


 The AAT Consortium requests all publications based upon data obtained through the AAT 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.

AAO-CTIO time-swap arrangement

The AAO and NOAO/CTIO have a time-swap arrangement to allow our respective communities to maximise their scientific opportunities through access to a broader range of facilities. This semester, there will be 5 nights of CTIO (Blanco) time available to the Australian community.

Further details about the available nights and instruments are expected with the NOAO's 2019A Call for Proposals, due for release 01-Sep-2018 (MST; UTC-7:00). Generally however, a uniform distribution of lunations will be available to the Australian community. Note too that DECam can produce useful imaging in the reddest filters (izY) on all but the very brightest nights.

All scheduled observations will be carried out in classical mode, with observers required to travel to the telescope at their own expense.

How to Apply

Those who wish to apply for Blanco time should do so using the Lens proposal system, selecting "CTIO 4m" from the telescopes menu on the first page of the proposal form.

The standard proposal page limits and recommendations regarding technical justifications should be followed. The proposals will be assessed by ATAC, and graded proposals provided to CTIO for scheduling.

Contacting the ATAC Secretariat

Postal Address:

PO Box 2100

Hawthorn VIC 3122

Street Address:

Dept. Physics & Astronomy

Macquarie University

North Ryde NSW 2109

Phone: +61 (0)2 9850 6379 






Custom text: Link: view

Request for Proposals for Large Observing Programs on the AAT starting Semester 19A

Background: The AAT Consortium aims to provide opportunities for astronomers to make effective use of the AAT’s unique capabilities to address major scientific questions through Large Programs using any of the following general-user instruments at the AAT: 2dF+AAOmega, 2dF+HERMES, or KOALA. (NB: Veloce is not being offered for Large Programs in the round.)

This Call: The AAT Consortium is issuing this request for Large Program proposals to commence in Semester 19A and receive an initial allocation of time through to (at most) the end of Semester 20B. All proposals will be evaluated by the Australian Time Allocation Committee (ATAC). Ambitious projects are encouraged; in some past semesters, Large Programs have been allocated almost 50% of the available time. Existing AAT Large Program commitments are listed at this link.

Deadline: Proposals for Large Programs should be submitted to ATAC by the standard proposal deadline of 5pm, 22 September 2018

Submission: All proposals should be submitted with the AAT's online application system Lens, which will open in August 2018. Non-standard page limits and section headings will apply as outlined below.

The case for a proposed Large 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 ground-breaking 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 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 AAT Consortium expects all Large Program teams to be self-supporting at the AAT, with a team of observers who are already trained in the operations of the instrument(s), and able to train other team members to the required level of competence, without additional support from AAT staff. Large Program teams are expected to assist the Observatory in maintaining Instrument User Manuals, and in monitoring the long term performance of the instruments they use.

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 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

Teams: Proposers are encouraged to form broad collaborations across the Australian and international communities in support of their programs. The Principal Investigators for Large Programs will generally be expected to commit to the project as the prime focus of their research over the program’s duration. Proposers should also familiarise themselves with ATAC's Policies and Procedures and well as existing AAT Large Program commitments.

Selection: The number of Large Programs to be awarded time will be determined by ATAC with a 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 Large Programs, long-term 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.

Anyone considering submitting a Large Program should contact the SSO Director ( director.sso [at] ) to discuss their plans 

Chris Lidman, SSO Director, August 2018


AAT Service Observing Programme



Service Mode Operations Ceased on August 1st, 2018


The OPTICON Transnational Access Program provides travel-related funding to AAT users from EU Member (and associated) countries. Under the current OPTICON Horizon 2020 agreement (2017-2020), AAT 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.

AAT OPTICON nights are top-sliced from AAT Paid Time.

Unsuccessful OPTICON proposals will no longer be considered for general AAT Open Time. Unsuccessful applicants may however request AAT Paid Time; paid time enquiries are welcome at Astronomy Australia Limited.