The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)

In Adventures, Places by Glyn DemmerLeave a Comment

After a scrumptious breakfast at the Kimberley Club we beat a hasty departure for Sutherland situated roughly 7 hours from Kimberley in the Hantam Karoo, the timing was critical as we had booked a 14h30 tour of the telescope and a 17h00 Planetarium Experience in Sutherland.

Everything went according to plan until a sensor indicated that we were losing pressure in the right rear tyre, surprisingly the same tyre that we had a flat with one year previously on Verneukpan near Kenhardt. The team mobilised and ended up changing the tyre twice due to problems with the jack and the different sized spare. Well, we made it on time and joined the tour group – it was fascinating.

The SALT telescope is located on a hilltop around 1800 m above sea level just outside of Sutherland, installation of the massive mirror began in 2004 and the last of the 91 smaller hexagonal segments were put in place in May 2005. These polished mirrors were made in Russia at a cost of one million ZAR each.

Various countries and universities have smaller telescopes on site, the area is perfect as it is pollution-free, and far from ambient city lights. SALT is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and is funded by a variety of international partners.- namely,

 South Africa, the United States, Germany, Poland, India, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The telescope has been fully operational since 2011 and is showing potential as Africa’s eye on the universe.

We moved from the SALT telescope down to the town of Sutherland where we spent the next 45 minutes watching a 3D 360° vide on the stars and various astronomical aspects -fascinating stuff. We then checked in to our B+B and headed into town for supper. An early night followed as we had another 400Km to cover the next day to take us to Kenhardt our second last stop of the trip. Although the SALT Telescope and Planetarium are trip highlights you owe it to yourself to explore the town of Sutherland as well – plenty of little photographic opportunities abound around every corner.

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