The Tony Fairall Teaching Observatory at UCT Astronomy

The Astronomy department has two teaching telescope facilities - one for optical astronomy and one for radio astronomy - collectively housed under the Tony Fairall Teaching Observatory:

  • two 14-inch Celestron optical telescopes (situated on the roof of the RW James building, UCT upper campus), and
  • two 3-m radio telescope (situated at the SAAO headquarters in Cape Town). 

The optical telescopes

Whilst the Astronomy department has always had a few optical telescopes for demonstrations and public outreach event, including one permanently mounted on the roof of the RW James building at UCT, we embarked on an upgrade project of our teaching telescopes under the guidance of Prof Claude Carignan in 2012. A new Celestron 14-inch telescope was purchased and installed on UCT campus, and first light was achieved in 2013. The old telescope was donated in 2014 to the Hermanus Astronomy Centre in the hope it could still be used in school outreach efforts in the Overstrand region by the Hermanus Astronomy Centre.

The domes were upgraded in 2019. The West dome which was previously inoperable prior to the dome upgrade, now houses a second 14-inch Celestron telescope, complete with a low resolution spectrograph. The Dean of Science, Prof Maano Ramutsindela, opened the second optical telescope in December 2019.

Since 2013, practicals using the optical teaching telescope have been integrated into our Astrophysics undergraduate curriculum with the addition of a course in Astronomical Techniques (AST2003H) at the second year undergraduate astrophysics major. This course include an optical imaging practical of selected open star clusters. The new telescope in the West dome is used for an optical stellar spectroscopy practical in Stellar Astrophysics (AST3002F) at third year undergraduate level.

The radio telescopes


[Last updated: 27 December 2022]