Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, says he is pleased that one of two new ATLAS asteroid alert system telescopes is being hosted in South Africa.
The system, operated by the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, had two telescopes in Hawaii that covered the Northern Hemisphere. Now, telescopes have been built at the El Sauce Observatory in Chile and the Sutherland Observing Station in South Africa to scan from the Southern Hemisphere.
The two locations were selected for their access to the southern part of the sky as well as their time zones, which allow for night observation when it is daytime in Hawaii.
The four telescopes are capable of scanning the entire dark sky every 24 hours for objects that could collide with the Earth.
Nzimande says that he is delighted that ATLAS has expanded its reach to the Southern Hemisphere.
“The construction of the two additional ATLAS telescopes, in South Africa and Chile, is now complete. They have already begun operations – and the South African telescope, ATLAS-Sutherland, has already discovered its first near-Earth object,” says Nzimande.
Below is the full statement: