SA wins bid to host major astronomy conference in 2024

South Africa has won the bid to host the 2024 General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union(IAU) – the first on African soil in its 105th year of existence.

The decision was announced by newly-elected IAU president, Professor Ewine van Dishoeck, at the association's General Assembly, which is currently under way in Vienna, Department of Science and Technology spokesperson Veronica Mohapeloa said on Friday.

The IAU was founded in 1919 with a mission to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy through international co-operation. 

It has 12 557 individual members in 90 countries.

Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane congratulated the bid committee for their sterling work. 

Kubayi-Ngubane said securing the bid was proof that Africa was the next big hub for astronomy, with mega projects including the MeerKAT, Square Kilometre Array (SKA), and African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network. 

"I am delighted that the international community is recognising the investments and concerted efforts that South Africa has been making in growing the discipline of astronomy in Africa,” Ngubane said in a statement. 

Ngubane added that the occasion would give a voice to Africa in the global astronomical endeavour and would bring attention to the "excellent science and education conducted on the continent".

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

The last General Assembly took place in Hawaii in 2015 and as the next one is to be held in South Korea in 2021, followed by Cape Town in 2024.