Five years ago a few hundred people gathered for the SALT ground-breaking ceremony. On a windswept hilltop near the tiny Karoo town of Sutherland, home since the early 1970s to SAAOs research telescopes, dignitaries turned the first soil. Much has happened since that historic day, and SALT is now nearing completion. The science programmes to be conducted on SALT will be many and varied – from studies of the most distant and faint galaxies to observations of solar system objects like asteroids and comets.
A major recent milestone was the installation in May of the last of the 91 hexagonal mirrors that comprise SALT’s mammoth primary mirror array, stretching 11 metres in diameter. The biggest milestone for 2005 will be the official opening of SALT on 10 November 2005 by South African President Thabo Mbeki.
“SALT was an initiative of South African astronomers that won support from the South African government, not simply because it was a leap forward in astronomical technology, but because of the host of spin-off benefits it could bring to the country”, said project scientist David Buckley. “Indeed the SALT project has become an iconic symbol for what can be achieved in Science and Technology in the new South Africa.”
John McFarland | alfa
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