South African Astronomical Observatory, Sutherland
This is one of over a dozen telescopes operated by the South African Astronomical Observatory at their main base of operations at Sutherland in the Northern Cape. They range from some rather old ones from the 1940s, to the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), inaugurated in 2005, which is new and quite, well, large.
The observatory was moved from Cape Town in the early 1970s because of light pollution, and Sutherland was selected as the new site because it was far from any light sources, and because it is one of the most cloud-free parts of the country. Funny that when we were there the clouds decided to come out and spoil our night time star-gazing (but aid our photography). The (usual) lack of clouds, together with the altitude here, also means that Sutherland is legendarily cold, and is usually the coldest part of the country every winter. This time we stayed in an old stone cottage in the town with lots of charm but no heating whatsoever, and so spent most of the time in several jerseys, trying to keep slightly warm.
I’ve made a few visits now to Sutherland in winter, and keep hoping to be caught in the snow, but no luck yet. For a South African, where we get almost no snow, it seems the most glamourous excuse in the world to call in leave at work due to being snowed in!
The image is an HDR composite of 3 hand held images, at exposure compensations of -2, 0 and 2, and they were tone-mapped in Photomatix Pro Software.