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Head of Department: Professor Renée C. Kraan-Korteweg

Departmental Profile

The Department specialises in the study of galactic structure, the distance scale, large-scale structure and evolution of galaxies in the Universe, next to high-speed photometry and spectroscopy of variable stars. Particular emphasis is being given on uncovering galaxies obscured by the Milky Way and the mapping of cosmic flow fields such as in the Great Attractor region. 

With the opening of SALT (the Southern African Large Telescope) and the construction of the SKA-precursor MeerKAT large radio telescope (the Karoo Array Telescope), new research areas were initiated in galaxy evolution (as a function of environment and redshift), the dark matter content in nearby galaxies, galaxy dynamics, and transient phenomena in astrophysics.

The Department has developed expertise in radio astronomy. In particular, staff at the Astronomy Department are (co-)leading four of the ten approved MeerKAT Large Survey Projects, namely the LADUMA project (a deep survey of neutral hydrogen at cosmological distances), the MHONGOOSE project (a deep survey of neutral hydrogen in an around nearby galaxies), the MIGHTEE project (a deep continuum survey) and the THUNDERKAT project (a study of the transient radio sky), jointly representing nearly 16000 hours of observing time on MeerKAT.

The Department forms part of the Research Centre for Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravitation at UCT ( which has been established in 2009.

The Department is an active participant of the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme – hosted at UCT – which offers Honours and Master’s degrees. It has strong links with the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), only 3.5 km from UCT campus, and close ties with the MeerKAT office in Pinelands. The Department also enjoys active research collaborations with other groups abroad.


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