11 Biggest Telescopes on Earth

largest telescopes

On the 25th of August 1609 Galileo Galilei presented his sensational invention that has changed the world, science, and people’s understanding about the structure of the galaxy – the telescope. Over the last several centuries his invention had been changed and improved many times, and nowadays there are many powerful telescopes that allow us to see the universe, stars and planet very closely and in every detail. In this article we present you the overview of the most powerful telescopes, with the help of which we have a unique opportunity today to look into distant and mysterious space worlds. Let’s find out which are the biggest telescopes on Earth.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)

Biggest Telescopes on Earth
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile is one of the biggest

The LSST is a new type of telescope, the construction of which was started in August 2014 in Chile. It is a ground-based wide-field telescope that will be able to create an image of the sky every couple of nights in six optical bands over 10 years with 8.4-meter aperture. As a result, astronomers will receive the clearest few and understanding of how space objects change over the time and how the universe functions. The cost of this project is almost $465 millions.

South African Large Telescope (SALT)

South African Large Telescope (SALT)
South African Large Telescope (SALT) is huge in size and very sophisticated instrument.

Nowadays this telescope with 11-meter-aperture is the biggest in whole southern hemisphere, and one of the biggest telescopes on the planet. SALT is located in a small town of the country Sutherland that is situated at the distance of more than 400 kilometres from Cape Town. The construction of the telescope that was finished in 2001, was financed not only by South Africa, but also by many other countries including the United States, Germany, Poland, and New Zealand.

Gran Telescopio Canarias

Gran Telescopio Canarias
Gran Telescope in Canarias offers amazing views of universe.

The telescope is located in the Canary Islands and can boast of the size more than 10 meters. Its construction was completed in 2009, and the observatory was opened the same year. It is such significant scientific development and invention for Spain that the opening ceremony of the telescope was visited by the Spanish King himself. The cost of project is more than 130 million euro, 90% of which was provided by Spain, while the rest 10% is the contribution from the University of Florida in the United States and Mexico.

Arecibo Observatory – World’s second largest telescope

Arecibo Observatory
Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, it’s big primary mirror is 304m wide.

The size of this telescope located in Puerto Rico is really impressive: the diameter of the primary mirror is more than 304 meters. Moreover, it is one of the most recognizable telescopes in the world: you might have seen it in many movies, including the scene from the movie “GoldenEye” with James Bond. This unusual construction started functioning already in 60s of the previous centuries, and has contributed to numerous significant scientific discoveries. In 1990s the Arecibo Observatory also became the main tool of the American project SETI on searching of extraterrestrial life.

Atacama Large Millimeter Array

Atacama Large Millimeter Array
Atacama Large Millimeter Array

This telescopes located in the desert Atacama in Chile is not only one of the largest, but also the most expensive ground-based telescope on the Earth: such countries as Japan, the United States, Taiwan, Canada, some European countries and Chile of course spent approximately 1,4 billion dollars on its construction. The main scientific purpose of these telescopes is study of the cosmic evolution at the earliest stages of the Universe development, including the birth and further dynamics of the first stars.

Giant Magellan Telescope

Giant Magellan Telescope
Giant Magellan Telescope

Chile has got the other telescope that is also rated as one of the largest telescopes on the planet. It is the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) located in the same desert that is financed by two countries – the United States and Australia. The diameter of its primary mirror is 25 meter, which will allow scientists to receive the clearest images from the Universe. In contrast to other telescopes, the GMT is still being built is planned to be finished by the year 2020.

Thirty Meter Telescope

Thirty Meter Telescope
Thirty Meter Telescope is going to be one of the biggest telescopes

The telescope is being built in Hawaii in the United States, and as you can judge from the title of the telescope, its size is approximately 30 meters. Its characteristics are quite similar to the above described GMT telescope, though it is a bit bigger that the telescope in Chile. There is not the exact cost of this telescope, but it is somewhere between 900 million and 1,3 billion dollars. The construction has not been finished yet, and it is planned that the telescope will have officially opened by year of 2022.

Keck I and Keck II big telescopes

Keck I and Keck II
Keck I and Keck II telescopes are among the biggest on the Earth,

There are two telescopes in Hawaii that are connected in one system – Keck I and Keck II. The diameter of the primary mirrors of both of them is 10 meters. The unique feature of these telescopes is that they can work together by giving the united image from the universe. Since the telescopes are located in one of the best locations in terms of astroclimate, they are considered to be nowadays the most effective telescopes.

Lovell Telescope

Lovell Telescope
Lovell Telescope

The telescope, the official name of which was “250ft telescope” until the year of 1987, is located in Jodrell Bank Observatory in the North-Western area of England. It was opened in 1957, and its diameter is 70 meters, which allows it to be considered one of the largest telescopes on the Earth. The telescope is especially famous for being the first telescope that managed to confirm the existence of pulsars – a type of neutron stars.

Large Binocular Telescope

Large Binocular Telescope
Large Binocular Telescope

There is quite large telescope situated in the State of Arizona in the United States on the Mount Graham with the diameter of approximately 8,5 meters – Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) that was officially opened in 2005. This telescope is a joint project of the United States, Italy, France, and Germany. An interesting fact about this telescope and its construction relates to its location that caused heated debates. The American native inhabitants considered the Mount Graham as a sacred site and were against of the construction of the telescope on it. Environmentalists also supported them due to their concern about the possible destruction of the natural habitat of the mount. However, the American government issued the Act permitting the construction, and the telescope had been built.

Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope

Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope
Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope is the world’s larges radio telescope

Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is newly build telescope located in China. It’s huge mirror is 500m wide, making it the world’s largest and the most advanced radio telescope in the world.

In addition to these above mentioned huge telescopes on earth, there are big telescopes floating is space such as Hubble. You can see amazing images of universe taken by Hubble from NASA’s Hubble gallery page. Furthermore, there are multiple big telescope projects going on, certainly human kind is more interested in than ever to find out what’s out there!

Telescopes for amateur astronomers

If you are interested in to observe universe by yourself, you can always visit local observatory. Many universities for example operate remarkable telescopes, and usually it is possible to visit these facilities, and even observe space using these sophisticated instruments.

If you are really interested in amateur astronomy, you could also buy own telescope. There are plenty of alternatives available, and prices starts from under $100 and goes up to $10.000. However, buying amateur telescope requires some knowledge about what you actually want. In short, just don’t go and buy very cheap telescope, as it is mostly useless. Instead start learning basics, and invest a bit more in quality instrument, and it will provide amazing views of universe years to come. Here is an excellent telescope buyers guide for beginners.

Don’t forget to share this article, and leave your questions and comments below!

11 Biggest Telescopes on Earth
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Written by Michael B

Hello I'm Michael

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