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SAAO to celebrate 200 years of astronomy in SA

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Its main research telescopes are located at a site 15km from the small Karoo town of Sutherland in the Northern Cape. This site hosts 24 telescopes.

South Africa Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland. Picture Ayanda Ndamane/ANA

THE SOUTH African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) will be celebrating two centuries of excellence in astronomy on Tuesday, October 20.

South Africa’s oldest scientific site, the Cape Town Observatory, now part of the SAAO, is 200 years old this year.

SAAO was formed in 1972, combining the Cape Town and Johannesburg observatories. Its main research telescopes are located at a site 15km from the small Karoo town of Sutherland in the Northern Cape. This site hosts 24 telescopes of various sizes and forms, some owned by SAAO and some hosted for international research institutes.

SAAO, a research facility of the National Research Foundation, which is an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation, is responsible for optical and infrared astronomy in South Africa and provides local and international scientists with world-class facilities.

The Cape Town site is not only of scientific significance but international cultural significance. For instance, the McClean Building, which houses the McClean Telescope erected in 1896, was designed by the renowned architect Herbert Baker.

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, will be joined by the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, and the South African Heritage Resources Agency in a virtual celebration of this convergence of our science, arts and culture heritage.