The Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SAO RAS) was founded in 1966. At present it is the largest Russian astronomical center for ground-based observations of objects in the Universe.
The main instruments of the Observatory are the Big Telescope Alt-azimuthal (BTA), an optical reflector with the primary mirror 6 metres in diameter and the radio telescope RATAN-600 (abbreviated from the RAdio Telescope of the Academy of Sciences) with a 600 metre multielement ring antenna. The telescopes have the status of open public instruments, permitting broad integration with the world astronomical community. The observational time is allocated by the Time Allocation Committee (The Large Telescopes Program Committee).
The Observatory is situated in the Northern Caucasus, in the Zelenchukskiy region of the Karachay-Cherkessian Republic of Russia. The BTA was built on the spur of the mount Pastukhov at the height of 2070 m above the sea level. There are two other instruments, a 1 metre Zeiss-1000 telescope and a 0.6 metre reflector, mounted in the close neighbourhood of the BTA. The RATAN-600 is located at the distance of 20 km from the BTA on the outskirts of stanitsa Zelenchukskaia at the altitude of 970 m. The base camp Nizhnij Arkhyz is constructed on the Bolshoi Zelenchuk river bank. The laboratories, premises and residential buildings of the Observatory's staff are located here.
The Observatory has two more divisions, St-Petersburg branch and Moscow
branch. SAO RAS employs around 400 people; more than 100 of them are