SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory

Telescope Time Applications & Review Process

In keeping with its role as the National Facility for optical/infrared astronomy, SAAO makes telescope time available to qualified astronomers and post-graduate students in South Africa and SALT partners. A certain percentage of time is also granted to astronomers from around the world, to promote scientific and technological collaboration and to promote the exchange of ideas and information. Availability of observing time is advertised under Rota. Time allocations will be made on the basis of scientific merit and technical feasibility. Proposals are reviewed by the Sutherland Telescope TAC (Time Assessment Committee) which conducts the business of providing a recommended list of observing programmes electronically. This occurs in the month following each deadline. The TAC consists of astronomers from the local and international community of users of the Sutherland telescopes. Prospective applicants for observing time should consult the pages for the telescope(s) and instrument(s) they may need to use.

Application Form

Please note that the application form has been updated.  The files available below must be used for all SAAO telescope time applications from 2013 QIV onwards.

The telescope time application form is a LaTeX document into which you enter details of your application. To convert it into a viewable or printable document, you need a style file as well as the form.

Download files below:
LaTeX file
style file

Use your favourite editor to insert the details into the form, make sure you have saao.sty, and then convert the form to a viewable document using LaTeX. Make sure all the details are correct and that the form prints correctly before sending the completed file to observer(at) Please submit your application as a PDF file.


Deadlines for applications are as follows:

  • 15 September for Jan/Mar observing;
  • 15 December for Apr/Jun observing;
  • 15 March for Jul/Sep observing; and
  • 15 June for Oct/Dec observing.

Notes for Applicants

  1. Night assistants are no longer available. Please state in your application form if you will require a support astronomer to start you off on the first night of your run.
  2. There is now significant strain on accommodation and transport to and from Sutherland. Visitors are therefore requested to plan for only one observer for each run. It is accepted that there are instances in which more than one observer is desirable (e.g. training of graduate students). If you feel you have such a case, please discuss this with Ramotholo Sefako well before your run, who will present this request to the Director.

Reports on Research done at SAAO

Authors using observations made from SAAO should include a note in the acknowledgements section of each paper with the words 'This paper uses observations made at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)'. This information should be passed on to anyone to whom observations made at SAAO may be supplied.

Authors are requested to notify the librarian at SAAO Cape Town of any paper they publish using data obtained at SAAO.