The SALT optical telescope – outside

After breakfast on Saturday morning, we drove back to the South African Astronomical Observatory’s site outside Sutherland. As the night-time tour had been cancelled because of the damp weather and cloudy skies, we were really looking forward to our day-time tour.

By way of introducing us to astronomy and to the research done here, we were shown around the museum inside the visitors’ centre. Then we all drove up to the top of the hill, where all the telescopes and astronomical and other scientific instruments are situated.

And then, at last, we were given a tour of the Southern African Large Telescope. Construction on this telescope began in 2000, and it was inaugurated in 2005. It was designed and built by South Africa and several international partners, including Germany, India, New Zealand, Poland, the UK and the USA.

“SALT can detect the light from faint or distant objects in the Universe, a billion times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye – as faint as a candle flame would appear at the distance of the moon. The telescope and instruments are designed to operate from the near ultraviolet to the near infrared (320 to 1700 nm), and offer some unique or rare capabilities on a telescope of this size. ” (

The 34-m high tower on the side of the main domed building is the mirror segment alignment tower, which ensures that the telescope is optimally aligned.




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