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SIC Virtual Tour: The South African Astronomical Obervatory (SAAO), Cape Town

September 13, 2021 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC

A 20-minute video tour of the historic domes and telescopes, followed by a Q&A session in the SAAO Museum, hosted by Ian Glass and Auke Slotegraaf.

The Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, was founded in 1820 and in 1972 became the headquarters of the newly created South African Astronomical Observatory. Over the years, many of the larger early instruments eventually had become obsolete and had ended up being scrapped. Fortunately, however, some of the smaller ones survived and these today form the nucleus of the SAAO Museum, started in 1987. We have also seen fit to include miscellaneous items used by the astronomers such as plate measuring machines, calculating machines, laboratory equipment, and twentieth-century detectors.

Historically the Royal Observatory was concerned principally with astrometry, time, photography and photometry but it also had to undertake geodetic surveying and act as a “Bureau of Standards” for the Cape Colony. Exhibits we could show include a Borda Reflecting Circle by Lenoir (1785), portable transits (ca 1820) by Dollond and Jones, the Beaufort theodolite by Ertel & Reichenbach, speculum mirrors by the Herschels father and son, the portrait lens by Dallmeyer used for the CPD survey, regulator clocks by various manufacturers, spectroscopic instruments by Hilger and standard measures for length, volume and mass.

Our hosts

Ian Glass was responsible for setting up of the Observatory’s museum in 1987. He is an emeritus astronomer at SAAO working on a voluntary basis to maintain and upgrade the museum.

Auke Slotegraaf has a non-profit organisation called the “Centre for Astronomical Heritage (CfAH)” which seeks to preserve astronomical heritage and there are several other amateurs involved through him.

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September 13, 2021
8:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC
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Ian Glass
Auke Slotegraaf