Visitors Guide to the Mopra Antenna
|The Mopra antenna is located in the beautiful scenery of the Warrumbungles National Park.|
Remote operation from the Narrabri Observatory or Marsfield 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, more comfortable 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.
Visiting the Mopra Antenna
All visits to the Mopra Antenna should first have approval from Brett Hiscock.
All visitors should read the Mopra Safety Manual.
The Mopra site consists of the antenna and a control building which also contains the on-site accommodation (Mopra Lodge). There are two gates on the access road which need to be opened.
The Mopra lodge is a two bedroom building attached to the control room. It contains an office, a bathroom, two bedrooms and a lounge/kitchen area.
It is essential to book your stay by filling in the WWW reservation form located at http://www.atnf.csiro.au/observers/accomm/ Confirmation will be through the office at Narrabri: Telephone +61-2-6790-4000.
Observers staying at the Mopra lodge have to provide their own food. Cooking facilities are available. Supermarkets in Coonabarabran are open for trading from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Allow time to reach the township before closing time so that you can buy sufficient groceries on your way to the antenna.
Alternatively, for evening meals there are hotels and restaurants in Coonabarabran. It is also possible to arrange to have an evening meal at the Siding Spring Observatory Lodge (+61-2-6842-6291). Note that the SSO Lodge caters for optical astronomers, and dinner is served either at 6 pm (summer) or at 5 pm (winter).
Contacting The Mopra SiteFor information on Mopra please contact the Paul Wild Observatory, Narrabri:
The Australia Telescope National Facility, CSIRO
Locked Bag 194
Narrabri NSW 2390
tel: +61 2 6790 4000
The telephone number for the control room at Mopra is +61 2 6849 1801. The telephone number for the Mopra desk at Narrabri is +61 2 6790 4088.
Please note that there may be no one present at the site.
The Mopra site is located almost 25 km from the town of Coonabarabran, and is not serviced by public transport. Observers are strongly advised to provide their own transport, for safety reasons, and to allow for trips into town for supplies. In special cases, it may be possible to borrow transport from the Paul Wild Observatory at Narrabri. Taxis are available in Coonabarabran for transport.
Most people travel to Coonabarabran by car. Since a car must always be on site for observers and visitors, this is certainly the preferred transportation method. With a rental car you will also be able to go shopping for groceries in town.
A daily bus connection is offered to Sydney and other towns. See the Countrylink pages for more information.
There is no direct flight to Coonabarabran. Nearby airports are Narrabri, and Dubbo. It is possible to hire a car from these centres, or even to take a taxi to Coonabarabran. Taxis are not cheap: a taxi from Dubbo to Mopra costs about $280. Qantas offers flights to Dubbo and Narrabri and Big Sky Express services Gunnedah.
Travel by CarVisitors 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:
- Pacific Highway, Cessnock, Muswellbrook, Scone, Quirindi, Gunnedah, Coonabrabran.
- Pacific Highway, Cessnock, Merriwa, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Coonabarabran.
- Penrith, Katoomba, Lithgow, Mudgee, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Coonabarabran.
- Windsor, Bell, Lithgow, Mudgee, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Coonabarabran.
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/BusThe 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 MopraThe 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.
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 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: Phil Edwards 24 Apr 2012