Astronomers Guide to the Narrabri Observatory
This site is also known as the Paul Wild Observatory or (occasionally) Culgoora.
Please address all communication to:
Australia Telescope National Facility, CSIRO
Locked Bag 194
Narrabri NSW 2390
Telephone: (02) 6790 4000 (International 61 2 6790 4000)
Facsimile: (02) 6790 4090
The Narrabri Observatory is part of the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF), which is operated by the CSIRO; the Site Manager is Brett Hiscock. The site contains the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), which consists of five moveable antennas on a 3-km east-west railtrack with a 200m north-south spur, and a 6th antenna 3 km further to the west. The site used to be the home of the CSIRO's solar radioheliograph. The central area of the observatory contains a control building with offices, a library, laboratories, workshops, and The Lodge for visitors and local staff.
The Observatory is situated 24 km west of the town of Narrabri, which is approximately 540 km north-west of Sydney. Narrabri has a population of about 7,250 and is the centre of a large irrigation and dry-land farming district which produces cotton, oilseed, premium grade wheat, grain sorghum, and raises cattle and sheep. Some of the surrounding tourist attractions are described at the end of this guide.
The telescope is at latitude -30o18' 52".048, longitude +149o32' 56"327 (east of Greenwich) and its height above sea level is 209.3m. The environment is modestly dry. Temperatures are typically above 30oC on summer afternoons (e.g. January,February), and are close to 0oC on winter mornings (e.g. June, July).
How to get to the Narrabri Observatory
Narrabri is at the intersection of the Newell and Kamilaroi Highways making driving from eastern seaboard cities straight forward. It can also be reached by air or rail from Sydney.
Always let the Observatory personnel know your travel plans so accommodation arrangements can be made for you. Please use the ATNF Reservation Form to do this.
We generally organise a taxi to meet people at the airport or train station (however, sometimes local staff will meet you). If, for some reason, the taxi fails to appear, contact the taxi service on 6792 2552 (note the taxi service is very competent at keeping track of late planes and trains).
Visitors may also like to consider renting a car from the airport. For a two-day visit, this is mildly more economical than two taxi trips. For longer visits, taxis are more economical. See here for local car rental agencies.
Please also let the staff know if your travel plans change.
Going by air: There are currently no direct flights to Narrabri. The quickest way to get to Narrabri is to fly to Moree or Tamworth and hire a car. For more information please refer to the Current Issues webpage.
Going by rail:
There is a daily train service between Sydney and Narrabri. The train departs Sydney 10:05am and arrives in Narrabri at 5:41pm. The return journey leaves Narrabri at 09:25am and arrives in Sydney at 05:03pm.
See the CountryLink Web pages for current information and timetables on rail travel between Sydney and Narrabri. Reservations are required, and the train is often full.
Going by car:
The 565-km drive from Sydney takes approximately 7.5 hours. You have a choice of two routes: North via the Pacific Highway through Cessnock (Hunter Valley wine country), or west over the Blue Mountains (very scenic). You can obtain an idea of these routes by consulting the Map of Central NSW (which includes Sydney) and the Map of Northern NSW (which includes Narrabri). A strip map is available showing the main centres along the way to Narrabri. However, the most difficult part is getting to Narrabri from Sydney is to get out of Sydney. For that, a detailed map is required.
Driving from Narrabri township to Narrabri Observatory:
See the separate documentation on getting to the Observatory.
- Standard Lodge Room : $70.50, per room, per night (includes breakfast)
- Lunch : $13.20, per person (between 12:30 and 1:00pm, then refrigerated)
- Dinner : $19.80, per person (kept in refrigerators for reheating)
- Full board : $103.50, per day, for a single person and all meals.
- 1 Bedroom Flat : $73.20, per night (minimum stay of 3 nights)
Accommodation & meals
The lodge has 13 single rooms, a double room, two bathrooms, a lounge room and a dining room. Although the rooms in the Lodge do not have private bathroom facilities, they are all equipped with hand basins.
To arrange a booking at the lodge, (or any reservation of ATNF accommodation, travel or computing needs) please fill in the ATNF Reservation Form
The cost of accommodation at the Narrabri Lodge effective from 1st January, 2014 is:
All of the above prices include GST.
The Flat is self contained, but meals from the Lodge kitchen may be requested (prices as above).
Students receive a 50% discount.
If you require a taxi from the airport, we generally organise this (and grouping the visitors together). The cost of a taxi is charged back to the visitors on a cost-recovery basis. Currently a taxi between the Observatory and airport costs $99.10 per trip.
On arrival at the Lodge, you will find your room allocation listed on a board located on the dining room/kitchen door. Further information about the site will be found in the bedrooms.
Lodge staff provide meals and snacks for observers. Some meals (e.g. in the evenings), will be prepared and left in the lodge refrigerator; these can be re-heated in the microwave or convection ovens at your own convenience. Please note, however, that using the microwave ovens is forbidden when the 13 cm receiver is in operation: the convection oven should be used at those times. As an alternative, fresh meats and salads are available. Ingredients will also be left in the lodge for snack- making. Tea and coffee is available at the lodge, and on the first floor of the Control Building. If you let the lodge staff know what your plans are, you will not starve! If you have any special needs (e.g. special diet), please indicate this when you book your accommodation.
Lollies, chips, soft drink and beer can be purchased at the Lodge. The Lodge includes a TV/video room and laundry facilities.
For those not requiring to stay at the observatory, there is plenty of other accommodation in Narrabri township.
Telephone cards are available for purchase from the receptionist, or the lodge staff on weekends. To dial outside the observatory, first dial 0 to get an external line. People outside the site can phone observers on 6790 4032 (Control Room, near Observers area) or 6790 4027 (Lodge dining area, near the TV room).
Personal safetyThe observatory is a safe place. However we ask that you familiarise yourself with information aimed at further safeguarding your well-being:
Observing with the ATCA
Please see the information for observers.
A duty astronomer and on-call person are rostered on at all times. Please familiarise yourself with who are the current duty astronomer and on-call person.
To report faults, use the on-line fault reporting system.
A computer account is needed to use these observatory computers. It will have the same password as an Epping account. See local staff if you are not sure about this. Please place your temporary files in an appropriately identified sub-directory or folder. Remember to remove your files and directories before leaving.
Backing up your copy of the observing data and any data processing is your own responsibility (see the Duty Astronomer if you are unsure about how to proceed with this) All data is automatically archived, and deleting observing files must only be done by, or with the authority of, the Narrabri operations staff.
A collection of web pages is devoted to describing the computing facilities.
The observatory has a modest-sized paper library, as well as electronic subscriptions to professional astronomical journals.
To provide feedback on the operation of the observatory, please complete an observer's questionnaire at the end of your observing run. It is available on-line.
The observatory has ping-pong and pool tables, as well as bicycles that can be used for cycling around the observatory grounds. However please do not cycle onto the neighbours property. The site includes an unstaffed visitors centre.
For non-astronomical diversions in the region, please see our general pages for the public.
Original: Penny Nelson (1990)
Modified: Robin Wark (14-May-2014)