Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory
Radio Observatory, Cradle of Humankind
The Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa. It is located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of Johannesburg.
The main reflecting surface of the telescope (below) is 26 metres in diameter. The telescope has a mass of 260 tons. It is equipped with radio receivers operating in microwave bands at wavelengths of 18cm, 13cm, 6cm, 5cm, 4.5cm, 3.5cm and 2.5cm. For maximum sensitivity, all but one of these receivers are cooled to 16° above absolute zero (-257° Celcius). All observing is controlled by computer.
For radio astronomy we use four observing techniques, namely continuum radiometry, spectroscopy, pulsar timing and interferometry.
Students and staff from universities carry out practicals, projects and researchat Hartebeesthoek.
School, public and group visits to the observatory are used to raise the awareness and understanding of astronomy, science and technology.
Teacher workshops are run in all the northern provinces of the country. These are designed to assist teachers in understanding and presenting astronomy-related topics in the current school syllabus and in Curriculum 2005 using Outcomes Based Education.