Applying for time

Applying for 2.3m time

The ANU 2.3-metre telescope at Siding Spring Observatory is scientifically productive and a valuable resource for student training and instrument development. These diverse and significant benefits justify its continued operation for the foreseeable future. The full cost to the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) of operating the 2.3m telescope (including staff, maintenance and repairs) corresponds to approximately $1200 per night. To defray this cost, RSAA is offering priority on the 2.3m telescope to paying customers from Australia and elsewhere, while simultaneously ensuring a level of open access to astronomers at all Australian institutions.

The process for allocating priority and open-access nights on the ANU 2.3m telescope is as follows:

  1. Astronomers at all Australian institutions are eligible to apply for open-access nights on the 2.3m telescope. A proposal is considered Australian if at least 50% of the proposers are at Australian institutions.
  2. A specified fraction of the available nights on the 2.3m telescope in each allocation round will be set aside for open access. This open access fraction will apply separately to dark, grey and bright nights.
  3. Australian proposals may request any mixture of priority (paid) nights and open-access (free) nights on a night-by-night basis – i.e. proposals will specify the number of priority nights and open-access nights sought, as well as the minimum total number of nights required.
  4. The Call for Proposals (CFP) for each time allocation round will include a schedule giving, for the current round and for subsequent rounds, both the fraction of open-access nights and the price of a priority night (as a percentage of the full cost of a 2.3m night).
  5. Non-Australian proposals do not have open access to the 2.3m telescope and are required to pay for priority access. The standard price for non-Australian proposals is the full cost of a night plus a 50% loading; this rate may be negotiated with the RSAA Director if a large time allocation is sought, but will never be less than the rate paid by Australian proposals.
  6. Time allocation is based both on scientific merit and payment, as follows:
    1. The Time Allocation Committee (TAC) ranks all proposals purely on scientific merit, regardless of whether they are Australian or non-Australian and whether they seek priority time or open-access time (or a mixture of these).
    2. Priority nights are allocated first, in order of scientific merit regardless of whether they are from Australian or non-Australian proposals, until either there are no more priority nights or the unallocated nights equal the open-access fraction, whichever occurs first.
    3. Time is then allocated to Australian proposals in order of scientific merit until the open-access time is used up.
    4. If there are any unallocated nights, then any remaining requested priority nights will be awarded time in scientific order of merit; if there are no remaining priority nights, this time will not be allocated.
    5. The only exception to this time allocation order is that proposals seeking priority nights paid from Australian Research Council (ARC) grants are guaranteed of being allocated those nights. If such nights are not awarded in the normal course of the time allocation process, this is achieved by displacing those existing allocations with the lowest scientific rankings (regardless of whether they are priority or open-access). Proposers paying for priority nights from ARC grants should clearly state this in their application.
    6. A proposal seeking a mix of priority and open-access nights will have the priority nights allocated first and then the open-access nights; all priority nights that are allocated must be paid for.
    7. Australian proposals for Target of Opportunity (TOO) time may also seek priority (paid) nights or open-access (free) nights.
    8. ToO can override both paid time and open time proposals.
    9. Time is refunded If the ToO over-ride is more than 2 hours per observing run for paid programs, or more than 4 hours per observing run for open-time program.
    10. ToO interrupts come in two types: immediate, in which case observations of the current target is aborted and the ToO observation commences, or normal, in which case the ToO request should be done within 24 hours.
    11. All allocations are subject in principle to the discretion of the RSAA Director and in practice to the constraints of scheduling the telescope.

The current schedule for the price of priority nights and the fraction of open access time is given in the table below. Note that the schedule covers the calendar years 2020-2024, and that the figures for a given year cover all time allocation rounds during that year (i.e. Q1-Q4). The current value for the full cost of a 2.3m telescope night is $1800 (Australian dollars ex-GST) up from the $1200 a night it cost to run the telescope in earlier years.


Price of a priority night ex-GST (% full cost of a night)

Fraction of open-access nights


50% = $900



50% = $900



60% = $1200



75% = $1500


2024 75% = $1500 40%
2025 100% = $2000 40%


      ** Cost of running the 2.3m, starting Q1 of 2022, will be $2,000 per night.

  1. The prices for priority nights will normally be updated annually, in early January of each year, to facilitate the budgeting of ARC proposals. Costs based on the January schedule for a given year can be used to budget ARC proposals for the following three years (e.g. the January 2020 schedule can be used to budget nights in ARC proposals covering 2021-2024). For ARC proposals submitted prior to May 01, 2019, the following table applies. Costs based on the January schedule for a given year should have been used to budget ARC proposals for the following three years (e.g. proposals that were submitted in 2019 but prior to May 01, 2019, should have used the January 2019 schedule to budget nights in ARC proposals covering 2019-2021).


    Price of a priority night ex-GST (% full cost of a night)

    Fraction of open-access nights


    33% = $400



    50% = $600


    2020 50% = $600 40%
  2. Prices quoted on these terms in ARC proposals will be honoured even if the schedule is subsequently updated. Nights paid for out of ARC grants are guaranteed time, and grant proposals should state that funding requested for 2.3m telescope access is buying guaranteed time and attracts an in-kind contribution (namely the subsidised fraction of the full cost of a night).
  3. The fraction of open-access nights may be updated in each Call for Proposals (CFP).
  4. Priority nights that are allocated time must be paid for before they are taken up (regardless of whether they are allocated in the open-access fraction of time). Proposers who default on payment for priority nights will not receive any time.

ANU Time Assignment Committee

The ANU Time Assignment Committee (TAC) meets quarterly to consider applications for use of ANU telescopes and instruments. 

Time allocation schedule

January 28: Call for applications for May-June-July quarter

February 15: Closing date for May-June-July applications

March 21: TAC meets to allocate time for May-June-July

April 28 : Call for applications for August-September-October quarter

May 15: Closing date for August-September-October applications

June 15: TAC meets to allocate time for August-September-October

July 28: Call for applications for November-December-January quarter

August 15: Closing date for November-December-January applications

September 15: TAC meets to allocate time for November-December-January

October 28: Call for applications for February-March-April

November 15: Closing date for February-March-April applications

December 15: TAC meets to allocate time for February-March-April

Membership and Rules for ANU TAC

Membership as of February 2021:



Term expires (last meeting)

Paul Francis


Sept 2022

Trevor Mendel


Sept 2022

David Yong


Sept 2022

Chris Onken


Sept 2022

Dougal Mackay


Sept 2021

Thomas Nordlander


Sept 2021

Ji-Jia Tang



Devika Kamath External Sept 2022

ANUTAC Handbook: Rules and Guidelines (PDF, July 2016)

Application process

All applications to the MSO TAC must be made via the web, using the LaTeX application template. Submission by FAX or paper hardcopy will not be accepted. Instructions for preparing your application are found below.


Applications are prepared in LaTeX using a template form. Always download the current version of the template rsaatac_blank.tex (last updated 30/03/10), as old versions of the application form will be rejected. Fill in the details between the { brackets } where appropriate. Note, that many fields are required to have a value. The application will be rejected if these fields are omitted. The comments in the template indicate if this is the case. Some fields also require a specific value. Where this is the case, all options are provided by the form. You simply need to remove the comment flag at the begining of the line. The email address of the PI is used as a username for the user account, should the observing program be granted proprietary status. For this reason, the email address must be fully qualified (ie Again, the application will be rejected if the email address does not have a valid structure.

Science case

The science case may be prepared in one of two ways. Firstly, the science case may be included in the LaTeX form, with additional postscript figures included as extra files. Figures may be imported into the LaTeX of the science case using either the psfig or epsfig packages. The postscript figures must be uploaded as additional files.

The alternative method is to prepare the science case as an independent document, and submit this document in postscript format as an extra file. Figures may be incorporated into a single postscript document, or simply included as extra files. Any files to be included must be postscript, but may be compressed using gzip. All filenames must end in either '.ps', '.eps', '.ps.gz', or '.eps.gz'.

Do NOT submit the postscript version of the LaTeX template as an additional file. Do not include an additional postscript file that has the same filename prefix as your LaTeX application.


It is essential that you check your LaTeX application form compiles before attempting to submit the application. To do this will require the style file rsaatac.sty (last updated 19/06/18). Again, make sure you have the current version of this file.

Submission - stage 1

Once all of the files you wish to submit as part of the application are prepared, you can begin the web based submission process. In the textbox, enter the full path and filename of the LaTeX form your prepared. Alternatively, click on the browse button and select the file from the pop-up GUI.

Up to 6 postscript files may be included with the application. Enter the full path and filename in the textboxes. Included each file only once, and leave the remaining textfields blank. Do not include a postscript version of the LaTeX form.

Submit the form to begin he process. The LaTeX form will be uploaded, parsed and 'LaTeX'd'. This may take a couple of minutes to complete. If there were errors in parsing or compiling the LaTeX form, you will be notified of the errors. In this case, correct the problems are begin the submission again. Otherwise, you will be presented with a summary of the details in the LaTeX form, and a web form for 'Submission - Stage 2'. Check the details in the summary are correct. Fix the the LaTeX file and start the submission again if they are not.

Submission - stage 2

Fill in the details for the instrument you want to use. This information is used by the technical staff to configure the telescope and instrument prior to your observing run. Once all the details have been entered, 'Submit the Application'. The files are uploaded and archived. Should this process be successful, your application will have been accepted, and allocated a unique proposal ID number. Record this number. If this step fails, a message suggesting the appropriate course of action will be displayed on your browser. This may be to contact RSAA's computer system managers, or begin the submission process from scratch. If you wish to make changes to your application after it was submitted, contact Do not submit the application again.

Compensation for time lost to technical faults

For paid time, compensation will be given under the following circumstances.

  • If one or more whole nights are lost due a technical fault and there is suitable unsubscribed time in the same allocation period.
  • If there is no suitable unsubscribed time in the same allocation period and more than 25% or one whole night (whichever is greater) is lost due to technical faults, then compensation will be considered (if this is requested) in a future allocation period. However any such compensation is always at the complete discretion of the SSO Director.

For open time, compensation is at the complete discretion of the SSO Director.

All requests for compensation should be e-mailed to the SSO Director 


Begin online submission process