Astronomy in South Africa


For as long as there were people living in Africa, there were star gazers. To the ancient peoples, the night sky was a giant tapestry into which was woven potent images that described proper conduct, moral law, family life and their wisdom about Nature. Studying the star lore of traditional cultures – ethnoastronomy – gives a unique glimpse into the mind of our ancestors. [ find out more… ]

The science of astronomy: early days

The first permanent astronomical observatory in the southern hemisphere, devoted to the scientific study of the Universe, was establish in 1820 in Cape Town, as the “Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope. The development of scientific astronomy in South Africa is a fascinating tale of discovery and exploration. [ find out more… ]

Historical observatories in Africa
Observatory name Location Long (E) Latitude
Lamont Hussey Observatory Bloemfontein, South Africa +26° 14.2′ –29° 05.7′
Leiden Observatory Southern Station Broederstroom, South Africa +27° 52.6′ –25° 46.4′
Campos Rodriguez Observatory Maputo, Mozambique +32° 19.8′ –26° 02.5′
Radcliffe Observatory Pretoria, South Africa +28° 13.7′ –25° 47.3′
Republic Observatory Johannesburg, South Africa +28° 04.5′ –26° 10.9′
Republic Observatory Annex Broederstroom, South Africa +27° 52.6′ –25° 46.4′
Yale Observatory Southern Station Milner Park, Jhb., South Africa +28° 02′ –26° 11′

Contemporary astronomy in Southern Africa

Professional observatories

Professional observatories in southern Africa include the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), Boyden Observatory, Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO), UNISA Observatory, and the HESS Gamma-Ray Telescopes. Three radio telescope projects currently being developed are the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7), MeerKAT and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). [ find out more… ]


Planetaria are located in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Richards Bay and Bloemfontein. [ find out more… ]

Astronomical societies and clubs

In addition to our Society, there are astronomical organizations in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Grahamstown, Kroonstad, Louis Trichardt, Port Elizabeth, Windhoek (Namibia), and Witpoortjie. [ find out more… ]

Star parties and other annual events

Special astronomical gatherings held in Southern Africa include ScopeX (Johannesburg), Southern Star Party (Western Cape), National Karoo Star Party (Britstown) and the Mountain Sanctuary Park Star Party (North West province). [ find out more… ]

Private observatories

Of the many private observatories in South Africa, we note the Cederberg Observatory and the Port Elizabeth Peoples’ Observatory. [ find out more… ]

If you are an owner or co-owner of a private observatory and would like to be listed on these pages (and in future editions of the Sky Guide) please contact us.

Other sites of astronomical interest

In addition to various heritage sites with an astronomical connection, sites worth visiting include the Tswaing (Soutpan) Meteorite Crater (Pretoria), the Hoba Meteorite (Grootfontein, Namibia) and the Vredefort Structure. [ find out more… ]

Education in astronomy and career opportunities

A professional astronomer will typically have a doctorate (Ph.D.) in astronomy, astrophysics or physics. [ find out more… ]

Graduates in astronomy are equipped to conduct research at the cutting edge of astro­physics and space science and will have the broad science skills needed in any modern technological society. [ find out more… ]

The Society awards the ASSA Scholarship, and administers the SAAO–ASSA Scholarship. [ find out more… ]