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South African Astronomical Observatory

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is located 11 miles (17 km) from the small town of Sutherland, in the Northern Cape province, about 248 miles (400 km) from Cape Town. Visitors must book a tour in advance to view the night sky through the telescopes at the visitor center: a 16-inch Meade and 14-inch…read more »

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is located 11 miles (17 km) from the small town of Sutherland, in the Northern Cape province, about 248 miles (400 km) from Cape Town. Visitors must book a tour in advance to view the night sky through the telescopes at the visitor center: a 16-inch Meade and 14-inch Celestron. Do not drive up the hill toward the research telescopes; this “no lights” area must be preserved for astronomers at work. Atop the plateau is the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), which is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and among the largest in the world. The lack of light pollution, semi-desert setting and good weather make this location important for astronomical viewing. An EarthSky friend wrote, “The reason the Southern African Large Telescope was erected outside the town of Sutherland, some 370km from Cape Town, is because it is one of a handful of locations in the world that is ideal for stargazing.”

Deborah Byrd