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southern african large telescope salt
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The largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere... a telescope so powerful that one could see a candle flame on the moon. Is that a WOW! or what? Seriously though, how would you like to see things you have never seen before? Photos don't count! Heavenly bodies that is only visible through a powerful telescope?

Well, you came to the right place, then. Eighteen kilometers outside Sutherland, on the road to Fraserburg you will find the Observatory that contributed to make Sutherland famous. Be like a kid again, become exited over the wonders of nature. Be one with Creation by watching what could only have been created by a Higher Hand. See Saturn's rings from up close. See if you can figure out why Mars is red. Maybe the sun would not seem so far away when you look at it from here.

The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, with a hexagonal mirror array 11 metres across. SALT may be very similar to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas, but what differentiates SALT is the redesigned optical system that uses more of the mirror array. It will be able to record distant stars, galaxies and quasars a billion times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye.

SALT was inspired by the Hobby-Eberly Telescope situated at McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas. Most of the technology used in Texas was also applied in SALT, but many design changes have been implemented where it proved faulty in HET. If you compare the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (below), with the Southern African Large Telescope, you will notice some marked differences, but also huge similarities.

"I am honoured to welcome this historic occasion the partners who combined to create this magnificent instrument of learning, the Southern Africa Large Telescope we commission today." A little over five years after groundbreaking, President Thabo Mbeki officially opened the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) on the 10th of September 2005 with these words. And with that historical opening the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, and equal to the largest in the world, was officially operational.

SALT is truly representative of the century in which it has been built. It is not only a sophisticated computer-controlled precision instrument, but also an Internet-age telescope. Astronomers in the consortium don't need to travel to SALT to use it. Instead they submit their observing requests over the Internet and eventually, once the observations have been conducted by the dedicated SALT scientific and technical staff, they also receive their data over the Internet. In many respects SALT operates more like a space-based telescope such as CHANDRA or the Hubble Space Telescope, than like other large telescopes based here on Earth. Tours of the Observatory and SALT is available, but you have to book, so call them on +27 23 571 1205 to reserve your booking, or got to South African Astronomical Observatory for more detail.
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