The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is the national optical observatory of South Africa and a National Facility administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The SAAO is the reincarnation of the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope founded in 1820 - the first scientific institute in sub-saharan Africa. In the 1970s, the Republic Observatory in Johannesburg and the Radcliffe Observatory in Pretoria were merged with the older Royal Observatory to form the SAAO with its headquarters at the Royal Observatory buildings in Cape Town. (There are still several of the older domes and telescopes in this location including the main administrative buildings.)

In 1970 after an extensive search for an ideal location the SAAO site at Sutherland was established. Sutherland is located in the Karoo in the south western part of South Africa approximately 1800 meters above sea level and about 370km North East of Cape Town.

Geographical position of Sutherland
(1.0-m telescope) 20°48'38.5"E 32°22'46"S Altitude 1759m

Major Telescopes on the Sutherland Site
Telescope (Manufacturer) - Instrument

  • 10m reflector (SALT Foundation) - PFIS, HRS and SALTICAM. (To be completed by end 2004.)
  • 1.9m reflector (Grubb Parsons) - Spectrograph, infrared photometer, CCD camera.
  • 1.4m reflector (Nishimura Co.) - Infrared Survey Facility, Sirius IR Camera.
  • 1.0m reflector (Grubb Parsons) - CCD camera, photometers, polarimeter.
  • 0.75m reflector (Grubb Parsons) - Normal & infrared photometers, camera.
  • 0.75m reflector (SAAO) - Automatic Photometric Telescope, photometer.
  • 0.5m reflector (Boller & Chivens) - Photometer.


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