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Guidelines for Visitor Instruments

Guidelines for Visitor Instruments
to be used on the
Anglo-Australian Telescope

These guidelines are for observers who wish to use their own instrumentation on the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

Full and clear communication between observers and the AAO is essential at all stages, especially for instruments which have not been used previously on the AAT. If uncertain about any issue, ask early!


The OBSERVER'S GUIDE: Obtain a copy of the ``AAO Observer's Guide'' - it contains a wealth of information. You can either obtain a paper copy (the "Yellow Book") from the AAO librarian (lib -@- aao.gov.au), or use the WWW version, which is (slightly) more up to date.

WORLD-WIDE WEB: Information on the Observatory may be found through our homepage, or from the Director (director -@- aao.gov.au).

LOCATION: The Australian Astronomical Observatory occupies two sites. Most administrative and scientific staff are based in the Sydney suburb of Epping; most technical staff are stationed at the telescope on Siding Spring mountain, Coonabarabran, 500 km NW of Sydney. In addition to the 3.9 m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), it also operates the 1.2 m UK Schmidt Telescope (UKST).

OBSERVING TIME: Observing time on the AAT is awarded by a single joint Australian Time Assignment Committee. Applications are due March 15 for the following August-January semester, and September 15 for the following February-July semester. More details can be found from the WWW application pages. Special arrangements exist for the UKST, for which observing time is available only on a user-pays basis. If your plans pertain to the UKST, contact the Astronomer-in-Charge, Fred Watson (fgw -@- aao.gov.au).

POWER SUPPLY: Australian mains supply is 240 volt, 50 Hz, single phase. Three phase is also available at the telescope; check availability if you need it. Single phase 110 volt, 50 Hz is also available with limited distribution, but 110 volt 60 Hz is not; again, check availability if you need 110 volts.
Contact: Doug Gray (dg -@- aao.gov.au) - Operations Manager, AAT.

COMPUTING FACILITIES: Epping and Coonabarabran have similar facilities. General user machines are Linux PCs; these share disks, and most are on the Internet. Interaction between AAT facility instruments (e.g. UCLES/UHRF, IRIS2) and visitor instruments is possible via an RS232 serial-line interface. IRAF, Starlink, and IDL are the standard data reduction packages available at the telescope.
Coonabarabran contact: Chris Ramage (cr -@- aaocbn.aao.gov.au) - IT Manager.
Epping contact: Helen Davies (hdd -@- aao.gov.au) - IT Support, Epping.

TRAVEL: Visitors from most countries (including the UK and USA) must obtain a visa to enter Australia, prior to travelling. Apply to your nearest Australian Consulate in plenty of time; a list of consulates, embassies, and High Commissions is available from the DFAT website.

Flights to and from Australia are often booked well in advance, especially around December-January, so book early. There are several options for travel between Sydney and the AAT:

Freighting and customs clearance of equipment is discussed below.


EARLY PLANNING: The very first step is to contact the Director of the AAO (director -@- aao.gov.au) and request permission in principle to bring a visitor instrument. Describe the instrumentation, estimate the level of support required from AAO personnel, and describe the scientific goals. This should be done before applying for observing time; AATAC will reject visitor instrument proposals which do not already have the approval of the Director.

The full costs of shipping and interfacing the instrument to the telescope are the responsibility of the applicant. The AAO will provide logistical and technical assistance, but does not provide financial support to visitor instruments.

The Director will nominate a member of the AAO scientific or technical staff to act as intermediary for your visit. He/she will help to ensure that all important issues are considered in good time, and will be able to answer questions on the AAO and its facilities or will put you in contact with someone who can. Keep this person fully informed of all developments, good or bad, and be sure to discuss the following issues early.




Your equipment is your responsibility. AAO support, where offered, is on an ``all care, no responsibility'' basis. Clarify in advance what support you will need, or may need if things go wrong. If you do approach us for technical support, the following items will greatly increase the chance of success:

DOCUMENTATION: Carry documentation for ALL of your equipment where possible. This should include wiring diagrams, circuit diagrams, operating system and computer user guides, data sheets for unusual components, and mechanical and optical drawings.

COMPUTING: Make a complete backup of your system and application software before departure. Bring all media and documentation to reinstall your operating system and application software from scratch. (Heed the voice of experience!) It is strongly recommended that you do a trial rebuild before departure. If you do not feel confident doing this, consider bringing additional support or at least pre-arrange a remote support person for the duration of the run. Consider bringing a spare disk drive preloaded; borrow one if necessary.

SPARES: Coonabarabran is remote, so access to specialist items can be difficult. Bring spares to cope with faults. We recommend that you bring spare power supplies, motors, encoders, couplings and specialist electronic components. Vulnerable components include line driver/receivers, programmable logic gates (bring the data, blank devices and hardware to regenerate them), disk and tape drives.

ISOLATION: All of the detectors used on the telescope are electrically isolated from the telescope to avoid electrical interference. Is your detector electrically isolated from its mounting flange?

COMMUNICATION AND EARLY ARRIVAL: The most important factors in a successful visiting instrument run are time and communication. Ensure that you discuss all requirements well in advance, and arrive in plenty of time to unpack and set up the instrument, test, repair if necessary, and arrange for any final work required for integration into the telescope systems.


Your equipment should be in good working order before you freight it.

Shipping may induce faults in previously reliable equipment. A high standard of packaging is required. The use of original packing material within professional standard metal trunks is recommended. If locked, provision must be available to open the goods for customs inspection. Unnecessary damage can be prevented by due care; consider the use of professional shipping agents if you do not feel confident. Label any items which need especially careful handling by customs inspection officers.

Customs clearance is required for visitor instruments, which involves time and paperwork. See the Observers' Guide for detailed information.
Epping contact: Don Kingston (drk -@- aao.gov.au) - Administrator, General Services.

Freight the equipment early, allowing extra time for customs clearance and forwarding from Sydney to Coonabarabran. You and your equipment should arrive well before the run to give you time to check that it works (i) after freighting, handling, and inspection by customs, and (ii) in the AAT environment. Allow time for unexpected modifications to be made. Determine in advance who will unpack it and set it up when it arrives.
Coonabarabran contact: Doug Gray (dg -@- aaocbn.aao.gov.au) - Operations Manager, AAT.

Most visitor equipment must leave the country within a finite period to avoid being charged import duties. Allow time at the end of your run to re-pack the equipment. Note that only minor instrument changes are undertaken at weekends and on public holidays, so check in advance when your equipment will be taken off the telescope.

REMEMBER: If you have any questions or are not absolutely certain of anything, ASK EARLY!

Gayandhi de Silva (atac -@- aao.gov.au)