Beautiful images from SALT mark 'first light' for Africa's giant eye

1 September 2005

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — Exactly five years after ground-breaking, the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) has released its first images. These images mark “first light” for Africa's giant eye and ensure South Africa's place in the international scientific community.


The University of Texas at Austin is a partner in SALT through the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) partnership. SALT was modeled after the HET, which is located at the University's McDonald Observatory in West Texas.

Located near the Karoo town of Sutherland, South Africa, SALT is the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. Astronomers will now be able to study the southern skies and its objects that are critically important to modern astronomy but not easily discernable by telescopes in the northern hemisphere. Together, SALT and HET will give nearly complete coverage of both hemispheres.

“The SALT project represents a leap forward in astronomical technology and has become an iconic symbol for what can be achieved in science and technology in the new South Africa,” said project scientist David Buckley.

The SALT project began about seven years ago as an initiative of South African astronomers with support of the South African government. It has grown into a global engineering project with partners from leading scientific institutions in six countries, on four continents, whose scientists have helped to finance, design and build SALT. SALT will be formally opened by South African president Thabo Mkeki on November 10.

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Notes: Additional media contacts at the South African Astronomical Observatory include David Buckley (, David Laney (; phone 2721-447-0025, and Darragh O'Donoghue (; phone 2721-447-0025).

SALT partners in South Africa include:

  • The South African Astronomical Observatory
  • The Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
  • The National Research Foundation

International partners include:

  • The Hobby-Eberly Telescope Board (comprising The University of Texas at Austin, The Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, and Ludwig Maximilians Universität Munchen)
  • Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
  • The University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
  • Dartmouth College
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • University of Canterbury (New Zealand)
  • Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland)
  • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Germany)
  • The United Kingdom SALT Consortium (comprising the Armagh Observatory, the University of Keele, the University of Central Lancashire, the University of Nottingham, the Open University, and the University of Southampton)