Four antennas of the Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri, New South Wales, Australia.

Four antennas of the Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri, New South Wales, Australia.

Australia Telescope National Facility

CSIRO manages the Australia Telescope for use by researchers from around Australia and all over the world.

  • 13 February 2011 | Updated 18 June 2013

Australia Telescope National Facility

CSIRO's radio astronomy observatories are collectively known as the Australia Telescope National Facility, with the facility supporting Australia's research in radio astronomy.

The Australia Telescope

The Australia Telescope is made up of radio telescopes at three observatories, near the towns of Parkes, Coonabarabran and Narrabri in New South Wales.

They are:

  • a set of six 22 metre diameter dishes near Narrabri, called the Australia Telescope Compact Array - the dishes work together as one telescope
  • a single 22 metre dish near Coonabarabran, known as the Mopra telescope
  • the 64 metre Parkes telescope near the town of Parkes.

CSIRO operates the Parkes and Narrabri observatories 24 hours of the day, throughout the year.

“More than 80 per cent of the Australia Telescope’s users are from outside CSIRO.”

About 90 per cent of radio astronomy done in Australia is done with the Australia Telescope.

The Australia Telescope is unique in the Southern Hemisphere.

The ATNF is continually enhancing the Telescope’s technologies, to keep it at the forefront of radio astronomy.

Telescope users

Researchers from around Australia and all over the world can apply to use the Australia Telescope. Observing time is awarded by the ATNF Time Assignment Committee, according to the merit of the proposed observing program.

More than 80 per cent of the Australia Telescope’s users are from outside CSIRO.

The Australia Telescope is in heavy demand - there are many more requests to use it than can be accommodated.

Supporting technologies

Operating the Australia Telescope requires skills and expertise in the design, construction and maintenance of highly complex technical systems, and in the scheduling of observing time, maintenance and upgrades.

CSIRO is expert in areas such as:

  • receiving systems 
  • signal processing 
  • data transfer and recording
  • specialised software for radio astronomy—and many others.

Next-generation telescope

CSIRO is applying its skills in radio astronomy technology in developing the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP).

ASKAP will be a next-generation radio telescope incorporating novel receiver technologies and leading edge ICT systems. When complete, ASKAP will be one of the world's leading radio telescopes.

ASKAP will also provide key results and techniques for the development of the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The SKA will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope, made up of thousands of antennas linked together by high bandwidth optical fibre. It will be implemented across two main sites: the CSIRO-run Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) and surrounding Mid West Radio-Quiet Zone in Western Australia, and southern Africa.

Both ASKAP and the SKA will give astronomers remarkable insights into the formation of the early Universe, including the emergence of the first stars, galaxies and other structures.

Learn more about CSIRO's work in Astronomy & Space.