Update: NASA Tracking of Voyager 2 (email from Director Douglas Bock 31/10/18):
CASS has recently been approached by NASA with a request to track the Voyager 2 spacecraft with the Parkes Telescope on a regular basis for the next 3-4 months, beginning as soon as practicable. The prompt for the request is recent data from Voyager 2 showing strong indications that it is approaching the heliopause, with the critical period for collecting the high value science likely to occur in the next few months.
The two Voyager spacecraft were launched in 1977 and are currently the two furthest man-made objects from Earth. Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause in 2012 but Voyager 2 because of its different trajectory (including the "grand tour" of the outer planets) will sample a completely different region of the heliopause. The spacecraft is currently at -58 degrees Declination and resources at CDSCC (Tidbinbilla) are already committed for the next few months to New Horizons and other important missions, leaving Parkes as the only realistic option to capitalise on this opportunity at short notice. The timing of the heliopause encounter itself is uncertain but the best estimates are sometime in December or January.
This is a rare scientific opportunity and one which CASS has decided to support, as part of its long-standing relationship with NASA. Parkes time will be made available essentially on a cost recovery basis, although details of the agreement are still being worked through. Meanwhile we have taken steps to prepare Parkes for live tracking tests commencing around 1st November which, all going well, will transition into full tracking the following week, until around mid-February.
This will have a serious impact on the current Parkes observing schedule for October 2018 - March 2019. The requirement to mount the X-band ("Mars") receiver for this extended period will require removing the 21cm Multibeam receiver until March 2019, in order that critical commissioning and science observations with the Ultra Wideband Low (UWL) receiver can continue as planned. This has a significant impact on Breakthrough Listen who are the heaviest scheduled users of the Multibeam at present. However BL have offered their support to CASS in this undertaking and are prepared to have their impacted time rescheduled later in 2019. The agreement with NASA will reserve 3 full days of every 14 for critical pulsar timing observations and essential maintenance. We believe after consulting those affected that this is enough to maintain continuity on these important projects over the Voyager tracking period.
The immediate impact is the extension of the UWL commissioning time from 2 to 3 weeks to incorporate the additional tests required for the Mars receiver. This means that the projects originally scheduled between the 5th and 11th November are displaced. Beyond that a new schedule is being drawn up that incorporates the tracking observations and this schedule will be released as soon as it is ready.
All projects impacted by this change will be accommodated where possible, either at different times/dates, or in April. As such, we will be aiming to release a revised schedule for the current semester and simultaneously the first month of the following semester (April 2019), in order to accommodate the displaced projects. Inquiries about scheduling should be directed to the Parkes scheduler, Jimi Green (James.Green
Receivers: At the start of the semester the telescope will be fitted with the 20cm multi-beam receiver (MB20) and the 10-50 receiver, whilst the new Ultra Wideband Low (UWL) receiver undertakes its final fit out. The UWL will then be reinstalled on the telescope on the 22nd of October and will have a dedicated 2 week period for engineering and astronomy commissioning. There will be 2 5-day maintenance shutdowns during the semester when observing won't be possible. Update: following the commissioning period Parkes will be fitted with the UWL and the Mars receiver (the latter for the NASA tracking). Mars will be replaced by the Methanol receiver half way through the February VLBI and then the multibem will be reinstalled after the VLBI run.
Backends: The DFB4 continues to be available, as does BPSR/HIPSR. The new GPU cluster based system ('MEDUSA') is available for use with the UWL with limited modes, which will expand through the semester.
Breakthrough Listen: The agreement between the Breakthrough Foundation and CSIRO to use the Parkes Telescope to Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) continues. The Breakthrough Listen program will be allocated 25% of Parkes observing time for five years commencing in 2016OCT. For the 2018OCT semester this equates to 750hrs, plus approximately 8hrs of make up time for technical issues last semester.
FAST: The agreement with the collaboration associated with the Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) continues, identified as PX500 and PX501, and amounting to 450 hrs this semester. A list of projects and observables for this time will soon be made available online.
Parkes Observing PORTAL: Parkes observers need to register for their upcoming observations, ideally at least two weeks in advance, using the PORTAL. Access to the PORTAL requires CSIRO unix or nexus account details: for users who do not have an account, account generation typically takes several working days.
Parkes Observing Support: Each Parkes project is required to designate a Project Expert from within the team who is the first point of contact for observing support for that team. Teams with no member suitable to be the Project Expert for that project should send an observer to the Science Operations Centre (SOC) in Marsfield in advance of the scheduled observing to be trained by ATNF Science staff. The Project Expert is expected to be capable of basic fault diagnosis/triage, and if not they will need to attend the SOC in person for training prior to future observations.
First-time observers will be required to undertake a telescope orientation session to introduce them to observing systems and monitoring tools. When first-time remote observers register their upcoming observing session(s) on the PORTAL they are sent links to on-line documentation and training material to help them prepare. It is a requirement that the on-line documentation is read before the training session. A list of the essential documents is given on the 'Help' and 'Links' tabs of the PORTAL.
Observers may choose to observe from the SOC at any time, and will be given a refresher or training session on request. Responsibility lies with the Principal Investigator (PI) to ensure the observers on their team are trained and competent observers. Observing from Parkes will be permitted for complex or non-standard observations, or in other circumstances where this is the more sensible option.
If anything remains unclear, please email ATNF-Parkes-Remobs[at]csiro.au or further clarification.
Radio Frequency Interference (RFI): Where possible notifications of expected RFI will be posted on the PORTAL Alerts. Other listings of known RFI are given on the Parkes observers pages.
Green Time: Directors Discretionary Time or 'Green Time' (so named after the colour scheme of the graphical format of the schedule, and not the system scientist) should be requested through the Portal. Instructions for doing this can be found in the "Book" tab in the Portal. Requests for green time can be made at any time during the semester, but the final allocation will not be made until ~1 week beforehand. Please also email Jimi Green (James.Green@csiro.au) with a summary of what you are requesting to observe.
Marsfield On-site Accommodation: The Marsfield site has a Lodge which is able to provide on-site accommodation for observers and DAs. Please use the new webform to book at least two weeks in advance to ensure a room is available.
Daylight Saving: Daylight saving in New South Wales will start at 2:00am (AEDT) on Sunday, 7th October 2018, when clocks will be put forward one hour. AEDT is 11 hours ahead of UTC.
Public Holidays: Labour day (01/10), Christmas break (25-26/12), New Years Day (01/01), Australia Day (26/01)
Version 2 of the schedule was released on 2018 November 5th to reflect the NASA Voyager tracking.
Version 3 of the schedule was released on 2019 January 22nd to reflect 1 week extension of NASA Voyager tracking.