The media will have an opportunity to tour South Africa's oldest scientific facility on 20 October 2020, when the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) celebrates its 200-year anniversary and its unveiling as a National Heritage Site.

From experiencing the 125-year old working McClean telescope to viewing one of the most advanced workshops in the country, where the first locally made ventilator prototype was produced, the media will able to see first-hand how the site has evolved.

The celebratory events will also include the premiere of Rising Star: A South African Astronomy Journey at Iziko Museum in Cape Town on Monday, 19 October.

The film, specially commissioned for the occasion, will take its audience on a journey from our beginnings through the development of astronomy research in South Africa. Along the way, it will highlight the many remarkable facilities hosted in the country, including the Southern African Large Telescope and the most powerful radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, the MeerKAT.

On Monday evening, the SAAO's Cape Town facility will be illuminated in the colours of the South African flag. Photographers are invited to take pictures.

The activities are part of a week-long programme of events to celebrate the SAAO's bicentennial excellence in astrophysics research and the significant scientific role it has played as the oldest permanent observatory in the Southern Hemisphere.

With a history dating back to 1820, this is a "living site" with more than 200 years of prominence in the international astronomical community.

The research facility is responsible for optical and infrared astronomy in South Africa and provides world-class facilities to local and international scientists. Its main research telescopes are located at the observing site 15 kilometres from the small Karoo town of Sutherland in the Northern Cape.

Here, on a hill-top 1 800 metres above sea level, stand 24 telescopes of various sizes and forms, some owned by SAAO and some hosted for international research institutes. These telescopes provide astronomers in South Africa and all over the world with access to our exceptionally dark skies.

The facility also promotes astronomy in the southern African region by participating in education and outreach activities to inform and enthuse citizens about physics and astronomy.

The media are invited as follows:

Event:        Premiere screening of Rising Star: A South African Astronomy Journey

Date:          Monday, 19 October

Time:         10:30. The doors will close at 11:00.

Venue:      Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome, 25 Queen Victoria Street, Gardens, Cape Town (entrance via Queen Victoria Street)

NB: The media must RSVP, as strict COVID-19 measures will be in place.

Event:        National Heritage Site unveiling and tour of the Cape Town Historical Observatory and workshop

Date:          Tuesday, 20 October

Time:         09:30 - 12:30

Venue:      SAAO, Observatory Road, Cape Town

NB: The media must RSVP by 17 October, as only a limited number of media groups will be allowed at the live event at the SAAO. To RSVP, visit

Alternatively, join the virtual unveiling here:

For more information, contact Veronica Mohapeloa at 083 400 5750 or Thabang Setlhare at 072 659 9690.

Issued by the Department of Science and Innovation