SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory

About SAAO

The mission of the SAAO is:

"To perform research in astronomy; to provide an international facility in Africa for such research. and to educate and inform the community"


SAAO headquarters (top) are in the suburb of Observatory in Cape Town, but the main telescopes used for research (bottom image) are at the SAAO observing station near Sutherland in the Northern Cape, a 4 hour drive from Cape Town.

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is the National Facility for optical/infrared astronomy in South Africa, administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF). Its prime function is to further fundamental research in astronomy and astrophysics at a national and international level through the provision and utilisation of a world-class astronomical facility. The SAAO contributes to the future development of South Africa through the creation and dissemination of knowledge; through human resource development; through provision of research infrastructure, and through providing an interface between science and society.

The SAAO is the premier optical/infrared astronomy facility in Africa and plays a leading role in the promotion of astronomy in the continent. In terms of research, the SAAO is one of the most productive scientific institutions on the continent. There are strong international links worldwide through scientific collaboration and technological exchange. SAAOs research excellence is underpinned by strong technical competencies in certain niche areas. Through devising a vastly superior spherical aberration corrector, and a variety of other innovations, SAAO has contributed to the high technology content of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT).