Astronomy organisations and links
IYA 2009 South Africa
The home page of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) in South Africa! This is the official site for the IYA celebrations in South Africa and in neighbouring countries who may be looking for support. Watch this space in the buildup and planning for IYA2009.
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009)
The vision of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) is to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery. All humans should realise the impact of astronomy and basic sciences on our daily lives, and understand better how scientific knowledge can contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society.
The Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO)
The HMO is part of an international network of
magnetic observatories, which monitor and model changes in the Earth's
magnetic field. Researchers
at the HMO are also involved in studying the
magnetosphere, which is the outermost layer of Earth's atmosphere. The
HMO runs science
awareness programmes for learners and offers
presentations on space physics and guided tours
of the HMO's facilities. There is also an interactive science centre and
Tel: (028) 312-1196 Fax: (028) 312-2039
Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO)
HartRAO operates a telescope 26 metres in diameter that can detect radio
ranging in wavelength from 2,5 cm to 18 cm. The radio waves are emitted
by many different kinds of objects in the sky, from atoms and molecules
neutron stars to galaxies. HartRAO has the largest steerable radio
telescope in Africa, and it
co-operates with radio telescope facilities on
HartRAO also has a Space Geodesy programme, which operates global
positioning equipment and a satellite laser ranger used to detect the
position of satellites. HartRAO organizes workshops for educators to
help them present astronomy-related topics in their own classes. Visits
to the observatory are also organized
for school groups and the public.
Tel: (012) 326-0742, Fax: (012) 326-0756
The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)
SAAO is the national optical observatory of South Africa, dating back to
1820, when the Royal Observatory was established at the Cape.
The headquarters are in Observatory, Cape Town, and the telescopes are
at Sutherland in the Northern Cape. At present there are various
telescopes with mirrors ranging in diameter from 0,5 metres to 1,9
metres in diameter. The telescopes detect visible light and infrared
radiation. A much bigger telescope (SALT) is currently under
construction on the site at Sutherland. The SAAO Science Education
Initiative offers astronomy workshops for educators. Members of the
public can visit the SAAO in Cape Town on the second Saturday
of every month at 20:00.
Tel: (021) 447-0025,
Fax: (021) 447-3639.
Visits to the telescopes at Sutherland can be booked through the
Sutherland Tourism Bureau,
Tel: (023) 571-1265.
Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)
SALT is currently being built at the SAAO's site at Sutherland, and will
be the biggest single optical telescope
in the Southern Hemisphere when
it is completed in 2005. By putting together 91 small hexagon-shaped
mirrors, each 1 metre wide, SALT will have an effective diameter of 11
metres. It will be able to record light from distant stars, galaxies and
quasars a billion times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye - as
faint as a candle flame on the moon.
Square Kilometre Array (SKA)
South Africa is competing with other countries to host the SKA, a $1
billion international project to create an array of antennas for
detecting radio waves that will cover an area of one square kilometer
(about the size of 150 soccer fields). This area is 100 times larger
than the biggest receiving surface that now exists. If South Africa wins
this bid, the main part of the SKA will be built in the Northern Cape,
with other parts distributed in Southern Africa. It will bring world
class scientists to our country and the region.
High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS)
HESS provides an indirect way of detecting gamma rays from the universe.
A gamma ray entering Earth's atmosphere interacts with air molecules and
causes a shower of secondary particles which emit a faint blue Cerenkov
light in the process. HESS consists of an array of four telescopes which
can detect the intensity and direction of this light. More telescopes
will be added later. HESS is located near the Gamsberg on the Khomas
Hoghland, between Windhoek and Walvis Bay, Namibia. HESS is an
international collaboration in which South Africa is a partner through
South African National Antarctic Expedition (SANAE)
Antarctica, the southernmost continent on Earth, does not belong to any
country, but several countries have bases there. South Africa has had
an Antarctic base since 1962. Data gathered at SANAE are used to study
the upper layers of the atmosphere in detail, especially the ionosphere
and the magnetosphere.
Information is also gathered about the ozone hole.
The CSIR Satellite Applications Centre (SAC)
SAC at Hartebeesthoek provides products and services related to the
space industry and its applications. It can track and control spacecraft
for clients using its antennas or help them set up their own antennas
and tracking facilities.
It also offers services related to getting, storing and using images of
earth obtained from satellites. It has three main groups: Earth
Observation; Ground Segment Services; and Information and Communications
Tel: (012) 334-5000, Fax: (012) 334-5001
Sun Space and Information Systems (Pty) Ltd (SunSpace)
SunSpace designs and develops small and micro-satellite
systems, and related support equipment and ground-based applications.
SunSpace has its origins in the SUNSAT satellite programme of the
University of Stellenbosch. SUNSAT, South Africa's first satellite, was
developed completely by a local team of engineers, and launched in 1999
by the American space agency NASA. The team who designed and developed
SUNSAT forms the core of SunSpace today.
Tel: (021) 880-8100, Fax: (021) 880-1703
Institute for Satellite & Software Applications (ISSA)
ISSA is based at the Houwteq satellite integration
facility in Grabouw. It offers post-graduate
qualifications in Engineering and Information and Communication
Technology. Research conducted at ISSA includes satellite engineering,
and excellent facilities are available for designing and testing small
Tel: (021) 859-7300, Fax: (021) 859-7324
Sentech uses satellites to deliver television and radio programmes to
your nearest transmitter station from where it is broadcast to your home
TV or radio.
If you live in a remote area where there is no land-based television
service, you can receive your SABC
and e.tv services directly off Sentech's satellite service with a
suitable satellite antenna and Vivid decoder. Sentech also uses its VSAT
system to deliver Internet and other data services via satellite
directly to schools and other institutions in remote areas of the
Tel: (011) 691-7000
Through its many satellite services (in addition to the undersea cable)
Telkom touches the lives of every South African, from connecting us to
the world to bringing news and sport to our television screens.
Connecting businesses in remote areas, making automatic teller machines
work, taking business application into Africa, Europe and the Middle
East and fast Internet and
telephones to rural South Africa are all part of Telkom SpaceStream
Cape Town Planetarium
Inside the domed auditorium of the Planetarium in Cape Town, visitors
are transported through the wonders of the universe - the ultimate in
armchair travel! Their full monthly menu of shows and activities for all
ages, as well as their astronomy courses, are very
Tel: (021) 481-3900, Fax: (021) 481-3990
The Johannesburg Planetarium offers a variety of shows for small
children, school groups and the general
public, as well as astronomy courses. Special shows can be put together
on request, and astronomical
birthday parties can be arranged. It also supplies
star-charts, telescopes, and other astronomy-related materials. A free
e-mail service notifies subscribers
of interesting sights in the South African night skies.
Tel: (011) 717-1392, Fax: (011) 339-2926
Boyden Observatory has the third largest optical telescope in Southern
Africa, a 1,5 m reflector and various other telescopes for educational
purposes, including an
excellent solar telescope. An observation platform is ideal for looking
at satellites, astro-photography and open-air slide/data projector
hosts open evenings for school groups and adults.
A Science Centre is now being established at the site.
It is located just outside Bloemfontein.
Tel: (051) 401-2924
Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA)
The Society is a body consisting of both amateur and professional astronomers.
Southern African Amateur Radio Satellite Association (SA AMSAT)
Radio amateurs use two-way radio communication to make contact with
other radio amateurs all over the world. They are even able to use
satellites and on
occasion speak with astronauts. You too can become a radio amateur!
South African space portal
The South African space portal is your gateway to space science and technology in South Africa. The portal has been developed by the National Working Group on Space Science and Technology.