25.05.2010 14:00 Age: 3 yrs
Category: SAAO Press Releases
By: Kevin Govender & Patricia Whitelock
South Africa has been selected by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to host the prestigious IAU Office for Astronomy Development (OAD). The awarding of the bid to South Africa by the 88th meeting of the IAU, on Thursday, 13 May 2010 in Baltimore, USA, follows a process where 20 proposals were submitted by different countries and were evaluated by the IAU over several months.
“This represents a significant achievement not only for South Africa but for all of Africa since this office will be the central point for using Astronomy to foster education and capacity building globally over the next decade at least. As the National Research Foundation we are looking forward to working with the Astronomy community for the benefit of Astronomy development” said Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, President of the NRF. South Africa’s proposal, submitted by the National Research Foundation (NRF), through its research facility the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and endorsed by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), proposed to host the office at the SAAO headquarters in Cape Town.
In congratulating South Africa, the IAU Vice-President George Miley, responsible for astronomy development and education, said “The SAAO is the prestigious home of several world-leading research telescopes, such as the Southern African Large Telescope, and has pioneered a unique programme of education and outreach at all levels. Located at the SAAO, the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development will be in a position to learn from the South African experience and make a fundamental contribution to furthering sustainable development globally”.
Prof Phil Charles, the director of the SAAO and driver of the proposal said “We are proud to have been selected as the host of this important venture. South Africa, through our Department of Science and Technology, has clearly demonstrated its commitment to scientific research development. Furthermore, we understand that South Africa’s success is strongly linked to the broader success of Africa so locating the OAD at SAAO represents a major opportunity for the entire continent”.
The selection of the host for the IAU Office for Astronomy Development represents a major milestone in the implementation of the IAU Strategic Plan entitled “Astronomy for the Developing World” – a plan which boldly aims at the global development of astronomy over a 10 year period. This strategic plan builds on the unparalleled success of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), which marked a new era in the public understanding, and appreciation of astronomy.
During IYA2009, South Africa, through the SAAO, played a lead role on numerous international astronomy development activities, the primary one being the “Developing Astronomy Globally” cornerstone project. Kevin Govender, chair of this cornerstone project and driver of astronomy development initiatives in Africa, explains: “As one of the few developing countries with an internationally recognized and strong astronomy community, we felt that it was South Africa’s responsibility to look at ways of bringing astronomy to less developed parts of the world, with a focus on Africa. Through the invaluable support of the IAU we have been able to stimulate astronomy activities all across the world, from Gabon to Tajikistan. Hosting this prestigious office will enable South Africa to expand this developmental role and realize the common vision with the IAU of astronomy in every part of the world!”
ABOUT THE SOUTH AFRICAN ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY: SAAO is the national centre for optical and infrared astronomy in South Africa. It is a facility of the National Research Foundation under the Department of Science and Technology. Its prime function is to conduct fundamental research in astronomy and astrophysics by providing a world-class facility and by promoting astronomy and astrophysics in Southern Africa. SAAO headquarters are in the suburb of Observatory in Cape Town. The main telescopes used for research are located at the SAAO observing station near Sutherland in the Northern Cape.
IAU national representative for South Africa
Chair: Developing Astronomy Globally
SAAO Spokesperson: Enrico Olivier 0834835557