SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory

Science Education/Visitor Centres

A Science Education/Visitor Centre will be constructed at Sutherland as a key feature in the Public Outreach Programme. Funding has to be raised for this Visitor Centre, independent of the SALT contribution by government.

Key features of this Centre will include the following:


  • This Visitor Centre will contain interactive hands-on displays on astronomy and other scientific aspects related to the Sutherland / Karoo region.
  • For operational reasons, the Visitor Centre will be in a separate building from SALT, but the SALT telescope dome will incorporate a special viewing gallery where visitors will be able to see the full scale of the telescope.
  • The potential for increased tourism and educational opportunities in the Northern Cape Province is substantial. The Visitor Centre and its programmes will be advertised widely, and tour groups will be encouraged, with special emphasis on groups of school children. At times the Visitor Centre will also be open to the public at night to allow them to view the beauty of the southern skies through small telescopes. These projected activities all provide development opportunities for the educational and business sectors of the Sutherland community.
  • The Visitor Centre can be thought of as a "Stargate" - a gateway to the stars - which will give the South African public and youth an appreciation of the Universe within which we all live. It will also engender a source of pride in South Africa's contribution to this knowledge, and stimulate an interest in science and technology.

In support of the Visitor Centre in Sutherland, the SAAO plans to establish an astronomy gallery in an Interactive Science Centre to be built in Cape Town. This will be a key 'Edutainment' destination in Cape Town and will have an internet link to the Sutherland Visitor Centre to allow visitors to see SALT under construction. To cater for the growing public interest in viewing the night sky in Cape Town, facilities at SAAO Cape Town will be expanded to allow larger groups of visitors to be accommodated. These facilities will have the advantage of being close to a major population centre.

Payoffs: Same as for 4.3, but in addition: Development of science and technology infrastructure in Northern Cape, and increasing edu-tourism and educational facilities in Northern Cape.