HARTEBEESHOEK RADIO ASTONOMY OBSERVATORY
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 Observatory began as Deep Space Station 51, built in 1961 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States of America. The station tracked many unmanned US space probes. These included the Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter spacecraft which landed on the Moon or mapped it from orbit, the Mariner missions which explored the planets Venus and Mars and the Pioneers which measured the Sun's winds.
The station was handed over to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1975 and was converted to a radio astronomy observatory. In 1988 the observatory became a National Facility operated by the Foundation for Research Development (FRD). In 1999 the FRD was restructured as the National Research Foundation (NRF).
For radio astronomy we use four observing techniques, namely continuum radiometry, spectroscopy, pulsar timing and interferometry.
HartRAO co-operates with radio telescopes on other continents and in space to form a virtual telescope the size of the Earth - or even larger using the orbiting radio telescope HALCA. This technique is called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). As the only radio telescope in Africa, Hartebeesthoek is in demand for this.
Students and staff from universities carry out practicals, projects and research at Hartebeesthoek.
School, public and group visits to the observatory are used to raise the awareness and understanding of astronomy, science and technology.
How to Find Us:
For those navigating by GPS, the coordinates of the carpark in front of the HartRAO Visitor Centre are:
Latitude 25° 53' 27.1" South
Longitude 027° 41' 12.7" East.
The turnoff to HartRAO from the Broederstroom Road is 3 km East of this.
Tel: 012 326-0742/6/7 in normal working hours
Fax: 012 326-0756