Observing at SAAO

Instrument Notes

The upgraded Cassegrain Spectrograph (SpUpNIC) is available. Information on calculating exposure times can be found here.
GIRAFFE is currently unavailable for applications.
STE3 and STE4 are no longer available on the 1.9-metre telescope.

Telescope Time Applications & Review Process

In keeping with its role as the National Facility for optical/infrared astronomy, SAAO makes telescope time available to qualified astronomers and post-graduate students in South Africa and SALT partners. A certain percentage of time is also granted to astronomers from around the world, to promote scientific and technological collaboration and to promote the exchange of ideas and information. Availability of observing time is advertised under Rota. Time allocations will be made on the basis of scientific merit and technical feasibility. Proposals are reviewed by the Sutherland Telescopes TAC (Time Assessment Committee) which conducts the business of providing a recommended list of observing programmes electronically. This occurs in the month following each deadline. The TAC consists of astronomers from the local and international community of users of the Sutherland telescopes. Prospective applicants for observing time should consult the pages for the telescope(s) and instrument(s) they may need to use.

Note that only researchers based at South African or Japanese institutions are eligible to apply for observing time on the IRSF. Those who are interested in applying for observing time on IRSF, and are not based at South African or Japanese institutions, should consider collaborating with researchers from South Africa and/or Japan. After the deadline, the IRSF proposals from South African applicants are sent to the IRSF ‘TAC’ in Japan for review and time allocation. The IRSF TAC is also responsible for the IRSF Rota as well as informing the applicants about the results of their applications.

Application Process

Please note that the application form has been updated again and can now be submitted electronically. You will have to register on the SAAO observer portal by signing up for a user account. You can then apply as usual by clicking on ‘Applications’ followed by ‘Apply Now’.


Deadlines for applications are as follows:
15 September for Jan/Apr observing, and
15 January for May/Aug observing.
15 May for Sep/Dec observing;

Notes for Applicants

Night assistants are no longer available. Please state in your application form if you will require a support astronomer to start you off on the first night of your run.
There is significant strain on accommodation and transport to and from Sutherland. Visitors are therefore requested to plan for no more than two observers for each run. It is accepted that there are instances in which more than two observers are desirable (e.g. training of graduate students). If you feel you have such a case, please discuss this with Ramotholo Sefako well before your run, who will present this request to the Director.

Reports on Research done at SAAO

Authors using observations made from SAAO should include a note in the acknowledgements section of each paper with the words ‘This paper uses observations made at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)‘. This information should be passed on to anyone to whom observations made at SAAO may be supplied.
Authors are requested to notify the librarian at SAAO Cape Town of any paper they publish using data obtained at SAAO.