10 largest telescopes

Table of contents:

10 largest telescopes
10 largest telescopes

What can a telescope with a 40 meter mirror see? Which observatory does Bill Gates sponsor? And which radio telescope can be destroyed in Battlefield 4? Find answers to these and other questions in a selection of the largest telescopes in the world from Naked Science.


10.Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

Main mirror diameter: 8, 4 meters

Location: Chile, the peak of Mount Sero Pachon, 2682 meters above sea level

Type: reflector, optical

Although the LSST will be located in Chile, this is a US project and its construction is fully funded by Americans, including Bill Gates (personally invested $ 10 million out of the 400 required).

The purpose of the telescope is to photograph the entire available night sky every few nights, for this the device is equipped with a 3.2 gigapixel camera. LSST stands out for a very wide viewing angle of 3.5 degrees (for comparison, the Moon and the Sun, as seen from Earth, occupy only 0.5 degrees). Such capabilities are explained not only by the impressive diameter of the main mirror, but also by the uniqueness of the design: instead of two standard mirrors, LSST uses three.

Among the scientific goals of the project are the search for manifestations of dark matter and dark energy, mapping the Milky Way, detecting short-term events such as explosions of new or supernovae, as well as registering small objects of the solar system such as asteroids and comets, in particular, near the Earth and in the Kuiper Belt.

The LSST is expected to see its "first light" (a common Western term for the moment the telescope is first used for its intended purpose) in 2020. At the moment, construction is underway, the device is scheduled for full operation in 2022.


9. South African Large Telescope

Main mirror diameter: 11 x 9.8 meters

Location: South Africa, top of a hill near the settlement of Sutherland, 1,798 meters above sea level

Type: reflector, optical

The largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere is located in South Africa, in a semi-desert area near the city of Sutherland. A third of the $ 36 million needed to build the telescope came from the South African government; the remainder is divided between Poland, Germany, Great Britain, USA and New Zealand.

SALT took its first picture in 2005, shortly after the end of construction. Its design is quite unusual for optical telescopes, but it is widespread among the generation of the latest "very large telescopes": the main mirror is not one and consists of 91 hexagonal mirrors 1 meter in diameter, the tilt angle of each of which can be adjusted to achieve a certain visibility.

Designed for visual and spectrometric analysis of radiation from astronomical objects inaccessible to telescopes in the northern hemisphere. SALT employees are engaged in observations of quasars, nearby and distant galaxies, and also follow the evolution of stars.

There is a similar telescope in the United States, it is called the Hobby-Eberly Telescope and is located in Texas, in the town of Fort Davis. Both the diameter of the mirror and its technology are almost identical to those of SALT.


8. Keck I and Keck II

Main mirror diameter: 10 meters (both)

Location: USA, Hawaii, Mount Mauna Kea, 4145 meters above sea level

Type: reflector, optical

Both of these American telescopes are linked into one system (astronomical interferometer) and can work together to create a single image. The unique location of the telescopes in one of the best places on Earth in terms of astroclimate (the degree to which the atmosphere interferes with the quality of astronomical observations) has made Keck one of the most efficient observatories in history.

The main mirrors Keck I and Keck II are identical and similar in structure to the SALT telescope: they consist of 36 hexagonal movable elements. The observatory's equipment allows observing the sky not only in the optical, but also in the near infrared range.

In addition to the bulk of the broadest spectrum of research, Keck is currently one of the most effective ground-based tools in the search for exoplanets.


7. Gran Telescopio Canarias

Main mirror diameter: 10.4 meters

Location: Spain, Canary Islands, La Palma island, 2267 meters above sea level

Type: reflector, optical

The construction of the GTC was completed in 2009, at the same time the observatory was officially opened. Even the king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, attended the ceremony. In total, 130 million euros were spent on the project: 90% was financed by Spain, and the remaining 10% was equally divided by Mexico and the University of Florida.

The telescope is capable of observing stars in the optical and mid-infrared range, and has the CanariCam and Osiris instruments that enable GTC to conduct spectrometric, polarimetric and coronographic studies of astronomical objects.


6. Arecibo Observatory

Main mirror diameter: 304.8 meters

Location: Puerto Rico, Arecibo, 497 meters above sea level

Type: reflector, radio telescope

One of the most recognizable telescopes in the world, the Arecibo radio telescope has repeatedly hit the lenses of movie cameras: for example, the observatory featured as the site of the final confrontation between James Bond and his antagonist in the film Golden Eye, as well as in the sci-fi film adaptation of Karl's novel Sagana "Contact".

This radio telescope even made it into video games - in particular, in one of the Battlefield 4 multiplayer maps called Rogue Transmission, a military clash between the two sides takes place around a structure completely copied from Arecibo.

Arecibo looks really unusual: a giant telescope dish with a diameter of almost a third of a kilometer is placed in a natural karst funnel surrounded by jungle and covered with aluminum. Above it, a movable antenna feed is suspended, supported by 18 cables from three high towers along the edges of the reflector dish. The giant design allows Arecibo to catch electromagnetic radiation of a relatively wide range - with a wavelength from 3 cm to 1 m.

Commissioned back in the 60s, this radio telescope has been used in countless studies and has helped make a number of significant discoveries (such as the first asteroid 4769 Castalia discovered by the telescope). Once Arecibo even provided scientists with the Nobel Prize: in 1974, Hulse and Taylor were awarded for the first-ever discovery of a pulsar in a binary star system (PSR B1913 + 16).

In the late 1990s, the observatory also began to be used as one of the instruments of the US SETI project for the search for extraterrestrial life.


5. Atacama Large Millimeter Array

Main mirror diameter: 12 and 7 meters

Location: Chile, Atacama Desert, 5058 meters above sea level

Type: radio interferometer

At the moment, this astronomical interferometer of 66 radio telescopes 12 and 7 meters in diameter is the most expensive operating ground-based telescope. The USA, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Europe and, of course, Chile spent about $ 1.4 billion on it.

Since the purpose of ALMA is to study millimeter and submillimeter waves, the most favorable for such a device is a dry and alpine climate; this explains the location of all six and a half dozen telescopes on the deserted Chilean plateau 5 km above sea level.

The telescopes were delivered gradually: the first radio antenna went into operation in 2008 and the last in March 2013, when ALMA was officially launched at full capacity.

The main scientific goal of the giant interferometer is to study the evolution of the cosmos at the earliest stages of the development of the Universe; in particular, the birth and further dynamics of the first stars.


4. Giant Magellan Telescope

Main mirror diameter: 25.4 meters

Location: Chile, Las Campanas Observatory, 2516 meters above sea level

Type: reflector, optical

Far to the southwest of ALMA in the same Atacama Desert, another large telescope is being built, the project of the USA and Australia - GMT. The main mirror will consist of one central and six symmetrically surrounding and slightly curved segments, forming a single reflector with a diameter of more than 25 meters. In addition to a huge reflector, the telescope will be equipped with the latest adaptive optics, which will maximally eliminate the distortions created by the atmosphere during observations.

Scientists expect these factors to allow GMT to capture images 10 times sharper than Hubble's, and perhaps even better than its long-awaited successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.

Among the scientific goals of GMT is a very wide range of research - the search and images of exoplanets, the study of planetary, stellar and galactic evolution, the study of black holes, manifestations of dark energy, as well as the observation of the very first generation of galaxies. The working range of the telescope in connection with the stated goals is optical, near and middle infrared.

All work is expected to be completed by 2020, but it is stated that GMT may see the "first light" with 4 mirrors as soon as they are introduced into the design. At the moment, work is underway to create the fourth mirror.


3. Thirty Meter Telescope

Main mirror diameter: 30 meters

Location: USA, Hawaii, Mount Mauna Kea, 4050 meters above sea level

Type: reflector, optical

TMT is similar in purpose and performance to GMT and Keck Hawaiian telescopes. It is on the success of Keck that the larger TMT is based with the same technology of the main mirror divided into many hexagonal elements (only this time its diameter is three times larger), and the stated research goals of the project almost completely coincide with those of GMT, right down to photographing the earliest galaxies almost at the edge of the universe.

The media call a different cost of the project, it varies from 900 million to 1.3 billion dollars. It is known that India and China expressed their desire to participate in TMT, which agree to take on part of the financial obligations.

At the moment, a site has been selected for construction, but there is still opposition from some forces in the Hawaiian administration. Mount Mauna Kea is a sacred site for native Hawaiians, and many of them strongly oppose the construction of a super-large telescope.

It is assumed that all administrative problems will be resolved very soon, and the construction is planned to be fully completed by about 2022.


2. Square Kilometer Array

Main mirror diameter: 200 or 90 meters

Location: Australia and South Africa

Type: radio interferometer

If this interferometer is built, it will become 50 times more powerful astronomical instrument than the largest radio telescopes on Earth. The fact is that with its antennas SKA should cover an area of ​​about 1 square kilometer, which will provide it with unprecedented sensitivity.

The structure of SKA is very similar to the ALMA project, however, in size it will significantly exceed its Chilean counterpart. At the moment, there are two formulas: either build 30 radio telescopes with antennas of 200 meters, or 150 with a diameter of 90 meters. One way or another, the length of the telescopes will be, according to scientists' plans, 3000 km.

A kind of competition was held to choose the country where the telescope will be built. Australia and South Africa reached the "final", and in 2012 a special commission announced its decision: the antennas will be distributed between Africa and Australia in a common system, that is, SKA will be located on the territory of both countries.

The declared cost of the megaproject is $ 2 billion. The amount is split between a number of countries: the UK, Germany, China, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, South Africa, Italy, Canada and even Sweden. Construction is expected to be fully completed by 2020.


1. European Extremely Large Telescope

Main mirror diameter: 39.3 meters

Location: Chile, top of Mount Cerro Armazones, 3060 meters

Type: reflector, optical

The authors of the Thirty Meter Telescope project say their astronomical instrument will be the largest optical telescope in the world.

For a couple of years, perhaps. However, by 2025, the telescope will reach full capacity, surpassing TMT by a whole ten meters and which, unlike the Hawaiian project, is already under construction. It is the undisputed leader among the newest generation of large telescopes, namely the European Very Large Telescope, or E-ELT.

Its main almost 40-meter mirror will consist of 798 moving elements with a diameter of 1.45 meters. This, together with the most modern system of adaptive optics, will make the telescope so powerful that, according to scientists, it will be able not only to find planets similar to Earth in size, but will also be able to study the composition of their atmosphere using a spectrograph, which opens up completely new perspectives in studying planets outside the solar system.

In addition to searching for exoplanets, E-ELT will investigate the early stages of space development, try to measure the exact acceleration of the expansion of the Universe, check physical constants for, in fact, constancy in time; This telescope will also allow scientists to dive deeper than ever into the processes of planet formation and their primary chemical composition in search of water and organics - that is, the E-ELT will help answer a number of fundamental questions of science, including those that affect the emergence of life.

The declared cost of the telescope by the representatives of the European Southern Observatory (the authors of the project) is 1 billion euros.

Image Image

Popular by topic