Lightly SALTed in Sutherland

The Southern Africa Large Telescope (SALT) has drawn world attention to Sutherland in the Northern Cape. And when you hear some of the facts, it may pique your attention too…

Words and Pictures: Keri Harvey

The chimney alongside the SALT building is for moisture extraction.

Did you know?

  1. SALT is 15km from Sutherland and the main road from town was especially tarred so that the telescope could be transported to the site, where it was assembled.
  2. It is the largest single optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.
  3. The design of SALT is based on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas.
  4. SALT consists of 91 hexagonal mirrors, each a metre wide and weighing 100kg.
  5. Designed in Russia and calibrated in the United States, SALT is to scan deep space for other distant galaxies.
  6. The telescope can detect light from objects a billion times too faint to see with the naked eye. It’s said that the telescope would be able to see a single candle burning on the moon.
  7. SALT cost about $32 million when it was installed more than a decade ago.
  8. At 1 759m above sea level, SALT is at an altitude just higher than Johannesburg and is in one of the most geologically stable areas of South Africa.
  9. Sutherland experiences 80 per cent cloudless nights and has virtually no light pollution.
  10. Numerous smaller domed telescopes dot the rugged hillside behind SALT, and are used by researchers from around the world.
Numerous telescopes dot the hill behind SALT.
Anthony Mietas guided us around SALT.
Inside the SALT building.

Handy Contact

  • Call 023 571 2436 for more information and night tours of SALT

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