Astrophysics in Southern Africa

Whitelock, Patricia A.
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The government of South Africa has identified astronomy as a field in which their country has a strategic advantage and is consequently investing very significantly in astronomical infrastructure. South Africa now operates a 10-m class optical telescope, the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), and is one of two countries short listed to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an ambitious international project to construct a radio telescope with a sensitivity one hundred times that of any existing telescope. The challenge now is to produce an indigenous community of users for these facilities, particularly from among the black population which was severely disadvantaged under the apartheid regime. In this paper I briefly describe the observing facilities in Southern Africa before going on to discuss the various collaborations that are allowing us to use astronomy as a tool for development, and at the same time to train a new generation of astronomers who will be well grounded in the science and linked to their colleagues internationally.
Comment: Paper given at the 2007 meeting of the National Society of Black Physicists; 10 pages, 2 photographs. To appear in American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings