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This list of the largest optical reflecting telescopes with objective diameters greater than 1.8 meters is sorted by aperture: an optical diameter that reflects light-gathering power of the reflecting telescope's optical assembly and resolution.

The mirrors themselves can be larger than the aperture, and new telescopes can use aperture synthesis achieved by Interferometry. Telescopes designed to be used as optical astronomical interferometers such as the Keck I and II used together as the Keck Interferometermarker (up to 85 meters) can reach very high resolutions, although at a narrower range of observations. When the two mirrors are on one mount, the combined mirror spacing of the Large Binocular Telescopemarker (22.8 meters) allows fuller use of the aperture synthesis.

Largest does not always equate to being the best telescopes and overall light gathering power of the optical system can be poor measure of a telescope's performance.Space-based telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, take advantage of being above the Earths atmosphere to reach higher resolution and greater light gathering through longer exposure time.

Table of reflecting telescopes

Multiple mirror telescopes are currently ranked by their equivalent optical area, rather than peak interferometric aperture, unless optical area is irrelevant for the instrument's design.

Name Image Effective aperture


Mirror type Nationality / Sponsors Site Built
Large Binocular Telescopemarker (LBT) 11.8 m (2×8.4 m) 464.6″ Multiple mirror, 2 USAmarker, Italymarker, Germanymarker Mount Graham Internationals Obs.marker, Arizonamarker 2004
Gran Telescopio Canariasmarker (GTC) 10.4 m 410″ Segmented, 36 Spainmarker (90%)
Mexicomarker, USAmarker
ORMmarker, Canary Islandsmarker 2006/9
Keckmarker 1 10 m 400″ Segmented, 36 USAmarker Mauna Kea Observatorymarker, Hawaiimarker 1993
Keckmarker 2 1996
Southern African Large Telescopemarker (SALT) (11 m × 9.8 m mirror) 9.2 m 362″ Segmented, 91 South Africa, USAmarker, UKmarker, Germanymarker, Polandmarker, New Zealandmarker South African Astronomical Observatorymarker 2005
Hobby-Eberly Telescopemarker (HET) (11 m × 9.8 m mirror) 9.2 m 362″ Segmented, 91 USAmarker, Germanymarker McDonald Observatorymarker, Texasmarker 1997
Subarumarker (JNLT) 8.2 m 323″ Single Japanmarker Mauna Kea Observatorymarker, Hawaiimarker 1999
VLTmarker 1 (Antu) 8.2 m 323″ Single ESO Countries + Chilemarker Paranal Observatorymarker, Chilemarker 1998
VLTmarker 2 (Kueyen) 1999
VLTmarker 3 (Melipal) 2000
VLTmarker 4 (Yepun) 2001
Geminimarker North (Gillett) 8.1 m 318″ Single USAmarker, UKmarker, Canadamarker, Chilemarker, Australia, Argentinamarker, Brazilmarker Mauna Kea Obs.marker, Hawaiimarker 1999
Geminimarker South Cerro Pachónmarker, Chilemarker 2001
MMTmarker 50px]] 6.5 m 256″ Single USAmarker F.marker L.marker Whipple Obs.marker, Arizonamarker 2000
Magellanmarker 1 (Walter Baade) 6.5 m 256″ Honeycomb USAmarker Las Campanas Obs.marker, Chilemarker 2000
Magellanmarker 2 (Landon Clay) 2002
BTA-6marker 6 m 238″ Single USSRmarker + Russiamarker Zelenchukskayamarker, Caucasus 1975
Large Zenith Telescopemarker (LZT) 50px]] 6 m 236″ Liquid Canadamarker, Francemarker, USAmarker Maple Ridgemarker, British Columbiamarker 2003
Hale Telescopemarker (200 inch) 5.08 m 200″ Single USAmarker Palomar Observatorymarker, Californiamarker 1948
LAMOST (6.67 m × 6.05 m + 5.72 m × 4.40 m corrector; effective aperture 3.6–4.9 m) 4.9 m–3.6 m 193″ Segmented (37 + 24) PRC marker Beijing Astronomical Obs., Xinglongmarker, China 2008
MMTmarker (6×1.8 m) optics replaced 50px]] 4.5 m (6×1.8 m) 177″ Segmented, 6 USAmarker F.marker L.marker Whipple Obs.marker, Arizonamarker 1979-1998
William Herschel Telescopemarker 4.2 m 165″ Single UKmarker, Netherlandsmarker, Spainmarker ORMmarker, Canary Islandsmarker 1987
SOARmarker 50px]] 4.1 m 161″ Single USAmarker, Brazilmarker Cerro Pachónmarker, Chilemarker 2002
VISTAmarker 50px]] 4.1 m 161″ Single IR ESOmarker countries Paranal Obs.marker, Chilemarker 2008
Victor M. Blanco Telescope 4 m 157″ Single USA Cerro Tololo Inter-American Obs.marker, Chilemarker 1976
Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) 3.89 m 154″ Single United Kingdommarker + Australia Anglo-Australian Obs.marker; Siding Spring, Australia 1975
Nicholas U.marker Mayall 4mmarker 3.81 m 158″ Single USA Kitt Peak National Obs.marker; Arizonamarker 1973
United Kingdom Infrared Telescopemarker (UKIRT) 3.8 m 150″ Single IR United Kingdommarker Mauna Kea Observatoriesmarker; Mauna Kea, Hawaii 1978
3.67m AEOS Telescope (AEOS) 50px]] 3.67 m 145″ Single USAmarker Air Force Maui Optical Station; Haleakala, Hawaii 1996
Telescopio Nazionale Galileo(TNG) 3.58 m 138″ Single Italy La Palma, Canary Islands 1997
New Technology Telescope (NTT) 3.58 m 142″ Single ESO countriesmarker European Southern Observatorymarker; Cerro La Silla, Chile 1989
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescopemarker (CFHT) 3.58 m 141″ Single Canadamarker,Francemarker, USAmarker Mauna Kea Observatoriesmarker, USA 1979
ESO 3.6 m Telescope 3.57 m 140″ Single ESO countriesmarker European Southern Observatorymarker; Cerro La Silla, Chile 1977
MPI-CAHA 3.5m 50px]] 3.5 m 138″ Single West Germanymarker+Spainmarker Calar Alto Obs.marker, Spain 1984
USAF Starfire 3.5mmarker 3.5 m 138″ Single USA Starfire Optical Rangemarker; New Mexico 1994
WIYN Telescope 50px]] 3.5 m 138″ Single USA Kitt Peak National Obs.marker, USA 1994
Herschel Space Observatory 3.5 m 138″ Single IR ESA countries Earth lagrange point L2 (space) 2009
Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC) 50px]] 3.48 m 137″ Single USA Apache Point Obs.marker; Sacramento Peak, New Mexico 1994
Shane Telescopemarker 3.05 m 120″ Single USAmarker Lick Observatorymarker; Mt. Hamilton, California 1959
NASA IRTFmarker 3 m 118″ Single IR USAmarker Mauna Kea, Hawaii 1979
NASA-LMT (NODO) retired 50px]] 3 m 118″ Liquid USA Sacramento Peakmarker, New Mexico, USA 1995-2002
See 'List of optical telescopes for continuation of list

This table does not include all the largest mirrors manufactured; the Steward Observatorymarker Mirror Lab produced the 6.5-metre f/1.25 collimator used in the Large Optical Test and Integration Site of Lockheed Martin, used for vacuum optical testing of other telescopes.

Segmented are also known as Mosaic mirrors. Single mirrors, also called monolithic and can be sub-categorized in types, such as solid or honeycomb.

Top telescope 2001-2010

The very largest telescopes are multi-telescope interferometers, and may have longer baselines.However, these astronomical interferometers are less flexible in use.

The largest telescope during the first decade of the 21st century could be either the Gran Telescopio Canariasmarker (one 10.4 diameter mirror), the Large Binocular Telescopemarker (two 8.4 diameter mirrors on a binocular mount), or the Very Large Telescopemarker (with four 8.2 m telescopes, four 1.8 m auxiliary telescopes, and a 2.61 m Survey Telescope). However, as these were still coming online in the period, the two 10 meter Keck Telescopesmarker (with 85 m aperture synthesis) were possibly the largest in full scientific operation.

Name Out In aperture (m) equiv. Area (m) Area (m²) Mirrors Note Altitude
Gran Telescopio Canariasmarker (GTC) 10.4 10.4 74 m² 36 x 1.9 m hexagonal segments for M1 Commissioned 2009; Largest single mirror 2267 m
Large Binocular Telescopemarker (LBT) 22.8* 11.7 111 m² 2 x 8.4 m M1 mirrors; 1 mount Largest Binocular; largest non-segmented mirrors 3190 m
Southern African Large Telescopemarker (SALT) 50px 11 9.2 66-45 m² 92 x 1 m hexagon; 11 x 9.8 m mirror Spherical M1 w/ fixed mirror; spectroscopy (see HETmarker or here) 1783 m
Keck 1 & 2marker 10 m each 10 m 76 m2 each 36 x 1.8 m hexagons M1 mirrors each largest twin telescopes 4145 m

*The LBT telescope baseline is via aperture synthesis. Largest telescopes with interferometer mode: {| class="wikitable sortable" style="font-size:95%;" |- ! Name || Longest baseline (m) || Mirrors || Area || Equiv. || Note |- | [[VLTI]] || 200 || 4 x 8.2 m (VLT 1,2,3, & 4) || 210 m² || 16 || Behind schedule |- |[[Keck Interferometer]] || 85 || 2 x 10 m (Keck 1 & 2) || 152 m² |- | LBT || 22.8* || 2 x 8.4 || 110 m² || 11.7 || One telescope mount* |- |[[Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer]] || 437 || 6 siderostats (visible) || Sparse Aperture |- |} *Baseline does not reduce with viewing angle

Under construction or planned

Below are listed telescopes that are still in the conceptual/proposed stage or still under construction.

Under construction

Proposed or Planned

See also


  1. The Telescope, By Geoff Andersen, Page 165
  3. Thai National Telescope Project

Further reading

  • "The Astronomical Scrapbook", Joseph Ashbrook, Sky Publishing Corporation 1984, ISBN 0-933346-24-7, o
  • "Giant Telescopes of the World", Sky and Telescope, August 2000.
  • "The History of the Telescope", Henry C. King. (1955)
  • "The Historical Growth of Telescope Aperture", René Racine, Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 116
  • JRASC (1929) vol 23, p351
  • Sky&Telescope (April 1981) p303
  • Sky&Telescope (July 1993) vol 86, p 27-32
  • James H. Burge, 1993 Dissertation at UA, "Advanced Techniques for Measuring Primary Mirrors for Astronomical Telescopes"

External links

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