SALT’s excellence and achievements

2016-12-15 06:01
 The Southern African Large Telescope

The Southern African Large Telescope

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The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) welcomes the 2016 Science Diplomacy Award given by the Department of Science and Technology as a result of the telescope consistently contributing to globally significant discoveries in astronomy. Science diplomacy is the use of scientific collaborations among nations to address common problems and build constructive international partnerships. The Science Diplomacy Awards recognise excellence and achievements in international scientific cooperation.

“This award recognises the scientific success of SALT, which is obtaining high-quality observations of the cosmos every night and distributing this information to partners around the world, expanding our understanding of the universe in which we live. This success is due to the ingenuity and dedication of a world-class team of South African and international scientists, engineers, and technicians who designed, built, and operate SALT. The telescope inspires a generation of young South Africans to dare to dream big, and to have the confidence and skill to bring those dreams into reality”, says Professor Ted Williams, the director of the South African Astronomical Observatory.

The Southern African Large Telescope has recently celebrated 11 years since its construction and inauguration in 2005. SALT is a 10 metre class telescope located in Sutherland in the Northern Cape. It has been in full science operations for 5 years, with its consortium of partners from South Africa, Poland, the United States, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and India who have made the building and operation of the telescope possible.

There are more than 150 international peer-reviewed scientific papers published thus far based on SALT data. Recent contributions of SALT to science include the discovery of the brightest supernova ever found and the unveiling of a massive supercluster of galaxies. The trend of SALT’s science output parallels that of other large international telescopes. However comparing operation costs, SALT produces science more cost-effectively than any other 10 metre class telescope. Numerous students are getting trained locally and internationally.

Since the building of SALT, the South African Astronomical Observatory has been actively involved in astronomy outreach by sharing scientific discoveries with the communities across South Africa with particular focus in Sutherland and Cape Town which is where our operations are located. As such, both locations have a thriving community engagement programme involving schools, teachers and society. Additionally, many visitors to Sutherland get an opportunity to see the telescope during the day.

Mr. Sivuyile Manxoyi, who is the head of SALT Collateral Benefits Programme says, “The building of SALT has not only contributed to science research advancement, but to socio-economic development in Sutherland and nearby towns through tourism. The other major benefit is education and outreach in science, which we continue to implement nationally. SALT continues to serve as an inspiration and to instill confidence that our country and its people have the potential to excel in science and technology.”

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