Telescope array at the South African SKA Karoo site. Photo: SKA South Africa

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa has won the bid to host the 2024 general assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the science and technology department said on Friday.

The decision was announced by the president of the IAU, Ewine van Dishoeck, at the association's general assembly currently under way in Vienna. It will be the first time this assembly is held on African soil in what will be the 105th year of existence of this prestigious global association of professional astronomers.

The IAU promotes and safeguards the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation in 90 countries worldwide.

Science and Technology Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, congratulated the bidding committee for their work, saying the winning bid was proof that Africa was the next big hub for astronomy.

Kubayi-Ngubane highlighted mega projects in this regard, including the MeerKAT, Square Kilometre Array, African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network, Southern African Large Telescope, and HESS and HIRAX telescopes, saying they were positioning the continent as a destination for cutting-edge multi-wavelength astronomy.

"The award recognises the incredible strides that African astronomy has taken in recent years. The occasion will give voice to Africa in the global astronomical endeavour, and will bring attention to the excellent science and education conducted on the continent," Kubayi-Ngubane said.  

"The opportunity for many African astronomers to take part in one of the world's biggest astronomy meetings will contribute to an enduring legacy of astronomy on the continent."

Held every three years, the IAU General Assembly is the biggest international meeting of the astronomy community and relevant to policy makers in this discipline.  

The last general assembly took place in Hawaii in 2015.  The next general assembly will be held in South Korea in 2021, followed by Cape Town in 2024.

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African News Agency (ANA)