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Visitors Guide to the Mopra Antenna

The Mopra antenna is located in the beautiful scenery of the Warrumbungles National Park.

Remote Operation

Remote operation from the Science Operations Centre in Marsfield or the Narrabri Observatory is now the default observing mode for Mopra. (Please note, much of the information on this page pre-dates these changes but is retained for those occasional cases where it is still useful.)

The Narrabri Observatory offers more observing support, better computing facilities, accommodation, as well as catered meals. Narrabri is about 2.5 hrs drive from the Mopra Telescope. Mopra observers now stay at the Narrabri Lodge. Accommodation can be booked through the on-line form. Information about getting to Narrabri and the Narrabri Lodge are available here. However, the best assistance with observing is available from the Science Operations Centre in Marsfield. There is an on-site Lodge available for observers, which can be booked using the same on-line form.

Visiting the Mopra Antenna

All visits to the Mopra Antenna should first have approval from Peter Mirtschin, the Narrabri Site Leader.

The Mopra site consists of the antenna and a control building.

Contacting The Mopra Site

For information on Mopra please contact the Paul Wild Observatory, Narrabri:
The Australia Telescope National Facility, CSIRO
1828 Yarrie Lake Rd
Narrabri NSW 2390
tel: +61 2 6790 4000
Control Room at Mopra: +61 2 6849 1801
Mopra desk at Narrabri: +61 2 6790 4088
Mopra desk in the SOC: +61 2 9372 4648

Travel by Car

Visitors who intend to drive cars in Australia should ensure that they have valid licences for this purpose.  Before departure you may need to obtain an International Driver's Licence or an English translation if your license is written in another language. Requirements vary from country to country.

There are several routes from Sydney to Coonabarabran:

  1. Pacific Highway, Cessnock, Muswellbrook, Scone, Quirindi, Gunnedah, Coonabrabran.
  2. Pacific Highway, Cessnock, Merriwa, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Coonabarabran.
  3. Penrith, Katoomba, Lithgow, Mudgee, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Coonabarabran.
  4. Windsor, Bell, Lithgow, Mudgee, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Coonabarabran.
The Windsor, Bell route (4) is the shortest and fastest; it has good road surfaces and the clearest signs, although you may be hampered by trucks and fog over the Blue Mountains.

The maps below will give you some indication of the towns. Finding your way out of Sydney is the most difficult part and we will provide you with a detailed map for the purpose. Don't forget to drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Travel by Train/Bus

The CountryLink division of State Rail offer a linked train/bus service to Coonabarabran, this has the longest journey time but the train leg through the Blue Mountains is very picturesque. The service is available on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, departing Sydney Central Railway Station at 07:10 arrive Lithgow 09:30, change to the bus in Lithgow arrive Coonabarabran 15:30. On your return the bus departs Coonabarabran at 13:00 change to the train in Lithgow at 18:25, and arrive back in Sydney 20:50. The total cost is A$119.00 return.

To get from Coonabarabran to Mopra

The map of Coonabarabran (208 kbytes) shows the northern entry into Coonabarabran from Gunnedah, the southern entry from Mendooran and Gilgandra, and the exit towards the Warrumbungle National Park to the west.

Once you are on the John Oxley Highway (either from north or south) head towards the centre of town until you get to the clock tower. Turn west along Dalgarno Street, north up Namoi Street and then west again on Eden Street (which becomes Timor Road), where there should be a sign confirming that you are on the right road to the Warrumbungles. Watch out for kangaroos on the road from Coonabarabran to the Mopra site, especially at night time. There are usually plenty of them, and they often show a suicidal tendency to jump in front of cars.

About 16 km along the John Renshaw Parkway (Timor Road) you should see Timor Rock on your right then, 6 km further, a signpost tells you to turn right to the Mopra site. You can't see the antenna from the main road, as it is hidden by a hill. You can see Mopra rock ahead of you as you turn off to the right. A little way up the road from the turnoff is the first gate. The next gate is nearly at the antenna. The position of these gates can be seen in the map of Mopra roads and gates

If you reach a road on the right directing you to Siding Springs Observatory, you have gone too far.

About Coonabarabran

Coonabarabran ("The astronomy capital of Australia") is situated on the banks of the Castlereagh River, 509 m above sea level, 450 km north-west of Sydney and 25 km east of the Warrumbungle Ranges and the Warrumbungle National Park. It is also:
  • 106 km south-west of Gunnedah.
  • 121 km south-west of Narrabri.
  • 102 km north-east of Gilgandra.
  • 160 km north-east of Dubbo.
The Oxley and Newell Highways passes through the centre of the town. This highway is part of the shortest route between Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. The aboriginal origin of the name of the town is ``inquisitive person''. John Oxley was the first European to explore the area in 1818. Records dating back to 1839 show a squatting run, leased by the Cox family, with the name of Cooleburbaun; by 1848 the lease had been taken over and became known as the ``Coolabarabyan Run''. Because it was a stopping place for travellers, a store and hotel were built to cater for the passing trade, and these became the nucleus for the early settlement of Coonabarabran. It now has a population of about 3000.

The main agricultural activities are timber, wheat and sheep. The maximum daily temperature ranges from 5°C in winter to 30°C in summer, with cool restful nights in summer, and the occasional snow on mid-winter nights. The Mopra site is a little colder, so take a woollen jumper with you, even in summer.

The Warrumbungle mountains have abundant Australian fauna and flora and are the main tourist attraction of the town. There are camping and picnic grounds in the national park with park rangers available for questions and advice. The mountains provide most spectacular scenery: clusters of the world's rarest extinct volcanoes form strangely-shaped peaks rising to almost 1220 m. Excellent walking tracks through varied plant cover lead to the base of these towering spires. If you want to know more about the volcanoes, visit the Crystal Kingdom Mineral Museum.

Nearby is the the eastern edge of the Siding Spring Observatory (operated by the Australian National University in Canberra), and situated at an altitude of 1165 m on Siding Spring Mountain. This observatory contains seven optical telescopes, including the Anglo-Australian Observatory's 3.9-m telescope (the AAT); this telescope is jointly funded by Australia and the United Kingdom. There is an excellent visitors exhibition building beside the AAT telescope, which offers you the opportunity to enter a section of the main dome of the telescope.

Coonabarabran has a Visitor Information Centre which can give more details on the attractions in the area, as well as hosting a display of Giant Prehistoric Hamsters. Last but certainly not least one of the best paragliding sites in the world is only two hours away. Go fly there with the Manilla Sky Sailors!

Enjoy your visit!

Last updated: Peter Mirtschin 8 October 2015