South Africa
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Africa’s Giant Eye on the Universe

The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is situated just outside the small town of Sutherland at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) field station. Sutherland is well-known for its’ clear night skies that makes the area perfect for star-gazing and a popular tourist destination for the same reason.

SALT is funded by a group of international partners from South Africa, the USA, Germany, Poland, the U.K., India and New Zealand and was completed in 2005. Between 2006 and 2009 the telescope went through a period of performance verification and by September 2011 the telescope was in full operation.

It is comprised of 19, 1 metre individual hexagonal mirrors, making it is the largest single optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and among the largest in the world. SALT is Similar to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) in Texas, except that SALT has a redesigned optical system using the hexagonal mirrors which stretch 11 metres across in total.

The SALT Telescope is able to record distant stars and galaxies that a billion times to faint to be seen with the unaided eye – as far as a faint candle flame at the same distance as the Moon is from Earth. The world is realizing the huge potential of this telescope and aptly refers to it as “Africa’s Giant Eye”.

Things to do and see

  • Visitor Centre
  • Fully Guided Day Tours: Monday to Saturday, 10h30 and 14h30
  • Self-guided & Basic Day Tours: Saturdays and Public Holidays, Hourly
  • Guided Night Tours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Summer Starting Time; 20h00 and winter Starting Time, 18h00
  • SALT
  • 16” Meade Telescope
  • 14” Celestron Telescope
  • Other selected Research Telescopes


Tour prices begin from R40 per person for basic and self-guided Tours and from R60 per person for fully guided Tours. There is no admission fee for children under 6yrs of age. Night Tours are charged at R80 per person. Prices are subject to change, please contact SALT directly to confirm all Tour prices.

Booking is essential.

Please note that no persons are allowed to drive up the road leading to the Domes. This is a “no lights” research area where international and local Astronomers are at work. Please report to the Entrance near the Visitors Centre on arrival.

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