South African Astronomical Observatory becomes Heritage Site

Date:22 October 2020 Author: Leila Stein

The South African Astronomical Observatory has officially been unveiled as a National Heritage Site.

As part of its bicentenary celebrations, the observatory was honoured with the plaque which dedicates it as a National Heritage Site by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA).

The announcement that the SAAO would be added to the list of heritage sites happened already in December 2018. However, this big celebration and official assignment was folded into the celebrations of its 200th anniversary.

The observatory is the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere and has contributed significantly to astronomy in the country and worldwide.

Although the headquarters are in Cape Town, the telescopes used for their studies are out in Sutherland in the Karoo. This is a great vantage spot as there is little light pollution.

SAAO was first founded as the Royal Observatory Cape of Good Hope on 20 October 1820, it has since contributed significant research and findings on our skies.

Observations made by the Cape astronomers include the first measurement of the distance to a star,  the first photographic sky survey, the accurate measurement of the distance to the Sun, the determination of the shape of the Earth in the southern hemisphere and the first accurate geodetic surveys of southern Africa.

More recently, the SAAO is most well-known for operating impressive telescopes such as the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) at Sutherland.

Picture: SAAO


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