List of largest optical telescopes in the 20th century

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The following is a list of the largest optical telescope of the 20th century with a focus on objective diameters. Aperture rank currently goes approximately by the usable physical aperture size and not by aperture synthesis, although interferometers attained some of the highest angular resolutions at visible and infrared wavelengths compared to traditional telescopes. Diverging methods of construction and use for reflecting telescopes in that area make comparing synthesized aperture irregular.

For instance, Keck I or II alone has less angular resolution than the Keck Interferometer (Keck I & II together), however, the Keck Interferometer is used for a much narrower range of type of observations. Ultimately, a valid comparison between two telescopes must take into consideration more specifications, when a general measurement becomes obtuse.

Aperture of the primary mirror alone can be poor measure of a reflective telescope's significance; for example, the Hubble Space Telescope has only a 2.4 metres (94 in) primary mirror. In addition, many large or significant telescopes are not optical and/or reflecting. However, many famous optical telescopes have had large apertures on their primary mirror with corresponding good angular resolution and light collecting area, with useful f/ numbers.

Including optical observatories, including UV, visible and some optical infrared telescopes, near infrared. Covers from about 1901 to 2001, with some flexibility to accommodate ambiguity in classification. For example, some 2002 telescopes, if it was nearly operation in 2001. 19th century and earlier telescopes that ceased operation are not included, but the list is not complete.


Table of reflecting telescopes[edit]

Multiple mirror telescopes are ranked by their equivalent optical area, not peak interferometric aperture unless it is not relevant for the design. See also List of astronomical interferometers at visible and infrared wavelengths.

Name/Observatory Aperture
m
Aper.
in
Mirror type Nationality of Sponsors Site and/or Observatory FL or Built
GTC 10.4 m 409″ Segmented,36 Spain (90%), Mexico(5%), USA(5%) Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma 2007
Keck 1 10 m 394″ Segmented,36 USA Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii 1993
Keck 2 10 m 394″ Segmented,36 USA Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii 1996
Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) 9.2 m 362″ Segmented,91 USA, Germany McDonald Observatory, Texas 1997
Subaru (JNLT) 8.2 m 323″ Single Japan Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii 1999
VLT 1 (Antu) 8.2 m 323″ Single ESO Countries + Chile Paranal Observatory, Chile 1998
VLT 2 (Kueyen) 8.2 m 323″ Single ESO Countries + Chile Paranal Observatory, Chile 1999
VLT 3 (Melipal) 8.2 m 323″ Single ESO Countries + Chile Paranal Observatory, Chile 2000*
VLT 4 (Yepun) 8.2 m 323″ Single ESO Countries + Chile Paranal Observatory, Chile 2001
Gemini North (Gillett) 8.1 m 318″ Single USA, Canada, Chile, Australia, Argentina, Brazil Mauna Kea Obs., Hawaii 1999
Gemini South 8.1 m 318″ Single USA, Canada, Chile, Australia, Argentina, Brazil Cerro Pachón, Chile 2001
MMT 6.5 m 256″ Single USA F. L. Whipple Obs., Arizona 2000
Magellan 1 (Walter Baade)[1] 6.5 m 256″ Honeycomb USA Las Campanas Obs., Chile 2000
Magellan 2 (Landon Clay) 6.5 m 256″ Honeycomb USA Las Campanas Obs., Chile 2002*
BTA-6 6 m 238″ Single USSR + Russia Zelenchukskaya, Caucasus 1976
Hale Telescope (200 inch) 5.08 m 200″ Single USA Palomar Observatory, California 1948
MMT (original) (6 x 1.8 m) optics replaced 4.7 m (6 x 1.8 m) 186″ 6 mirrors USA F. L. Whipple Obs., Arizona 1979-1998
William Herschel Telescope 4.2 m 165″ Single UK, Netherlands, Spain ORM, Canary Islands 1987
SOAR 4.1 m 161″ Single USA, Brazil Cerro Pachón, Chile 2002*
Nicholas U. Mayall 4m[2] 4 m 158″ Single USA Kitt Peak National Obs.; Arizona 1973
Victor M. Blanco Telescope 4 m 158″ Single USA Cerro Tololo Inter-American Obs., Chile 1976
Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) 3.89 m 154″ Single United Kingdom + Australia Anglo-Australian Obs.; Siding Spring, Australia 1975
United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) 3.8 m 150″ Single IR United Kingdom Mauna Kea Observatories; Mauna Kea, Hawaii 1978
3.67m AEOS Telescope (AEOS) 3.67 m 145″ Single USA Air Force Maui Optical Station; Haleakala, Hawaii 1996
Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (TNG) 3.58 m 138″ Single Italy ORM; La Palma, Canary Islands 1997
New Technology Telescope (NTT) 3.58 m 142″ Single ESO countries European Southern Observatory; Cerro La Silla, Chile 1989
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) 3.58 m 141″ Single Canada, France, USA Mauna Kea Observatories, USA 1979
ESO 3.6 m Telescope 3.57 m 140″ Single ESO countries European Southern Observatory; Cerro La Silla, Chile 1977
MPI-CAHA 3.5m[3] 3.5 m 138″ Single West Germany+Spain Calar Alto Obs., Spain 1984
USAF Starfire 3.5m[4] 3.5 m 138″ Single USA Starfire Optical Range; New Mexico 1994
WIYN Telescope 3.5 m 138″ Single USA Kitt Peak National Obs., USA 1994
Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC) 3.48 m 137″ Single USA Apache Point Obs.; Sacramento Peak, New Mexico 1994
Shane Telescope 3.05 m 120″ Single USA Lick Observatory; Mt. Hamilton, California 1959
Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) 3 m 118″ Single IR USA Mauna Kea, Hawaii 1979
NASA-LMT (NODO)[5] retired 3 m 118″ Liquid USA Sacramento Peak, New Mexico, USA 1995–2002
Harlan J. Smith Telescope 2.72 m 107″ Single USA McDonald Observatory, Texas, USA 1969
UBC-Laval LMT 2.65 m 104″ Liquid Canada Vancouver, Canada 1992-
Shajn 2.6m (Crimean 102 in)[6] 2.64 m 103″ Single Crimean Astrophysical Obs., Ukraine 1961
BAO 2.6 2.6 m 102″ Single Byurakan Astrophysical Obs.; Mt. Aragatz, Armenia 1976
Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) 2.56 m 101″ Single Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Finland La Palma, Canary Islands 1988
Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) 2.54 m 100″ Zerodur UK La Palma, Canary Islands moved/new mirror 1984
du Pont 2.54 m 100″ Single USA Las Campanas Observatory, Chile 1976
Hooker 100-Inch Telescope 2.54 m 100″ Single USA Mt. Wilson Observatory; California 1917
Sloan DSS 2.5 m 98″ Single USA Sacramento Peak, New Mexico 1997
Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) 2.54 m 98″ Single UK RGO, Sussex, England (original) 1965-1979
Hiltner Telescope[7] 2.4 m 95″ Single USA MDM Observatory, Kitt Peak, Arizona 1986
Hubble (HST) 2.4 m 94″ Single NASA+ESA Low Earth orbit 1990
Vainu Bappu[8][9] 2.34 m 92″ Single Vainu Bappu Observatory, India 1986
WIRO 2.3 2.3 m 90.5″ Single USA Wyoming, USA 1977
ANU 2.3m ATT[10] 2.3 m 90″ Single Australia Siding Spring Obs., Australia 1984
Bok Telescope (90-inch) 2.3 m 90″ Single USA Steward Obs., Kitt Peak, Arizona 1969
University of Hawaii 2.2 m[11] 2.24 m 88″ Single USA Mauna Kea Observatories, Hawaii 1970[11]
MPIA-ESO (ESO-MPI) 2.2 m 87″ Single West Germany Cerro La Silla, Chile 1984[12]
MPIA-CAHA 2.2m[12][13] 2.2 m 87″ Single West Germany Calar Alto Observatory, Spain 1979
Xinglong 2.16m[14] 2.16 m 85″ Single PRC (China) Xinglong, China 1989
Jorge Sahade 2.15m[15] 2.15 m 84″ Single Leoncito Astronomical Complex, Argentina 1987
INAOE 2.12 (OAGH)[16] 2.12 m 83″ Single Mexico, USA Guillermo Haro Observatory; Sonora 1987
UNAM 2.12 2.12 m 83" Single NAO; San Pedro, Mexico 1979
Kitt Peak 2.1-meter 2.1 m 83″ Single USA Kitt Peak (KNPO), USA 1964
Otto Struve Telescope 2.1 m 82 Single USA McDonald Observatory, USA 1939
Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT)[17] 2.01 m 79″ Single India Indian Astronomical Obs., Hanle (4500 m) 2000
Alfred Jensch Teleskop 2 m 79″ Single Karl Schwarzschild Observatory 1960
Carl Zeiss Jena 2 m 79″ Single Shamakhi Astrophysical Obs., Azerbaijan 1966
Ondřejov 2-m [2] 2 m 79″ Single USSR + Czechoslovakia Ondřejov Observatory, Czech 1967
Ritchey-Chretien-Coude (RCC)[18] 2 m 79″ Single Rozhen Observatory, Bulgaria 1984
Carl Zeiss Jena 2 m 79″ Single Main Ukraine Obs.
Bernard Lyot Telescope 2 m 79″ Single France Pic du Midi Obs., France 1980
Faulkes Telescope North 2 m 79″ Single UK Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii 2003*[19]
Faulkes Telescope South 2 m 79″ Single UK Siding Spring Obs., Australia 2001
MAGNUM[20] 2 m 79″ Single IR Japan Haleakala Obs., USA 2001
OHP 1.93 1.93 m 76″ Single France Haute-Provence Observatory, France 1958
74 inch Radcliffe Telescope (1.9 m)[21] 1.88 m 74″ Single South African Astronomical Obs., Sutherland, 1974–Present
Radcliffe Obs.,1948- 1974[21]
1950
188 cm telescope[22] 1.88 m 74″ Single Japan Okayama Astrophysical Observatory, Japan 1960
DDO 1.88 m 1.88 m 74″ Single Canada David Dunlap Observatory, Ontario 1935
74" reflector[23] 1.88 m 74″ Single Australia Mount Stromlo Observatory, Australia 1955–2003
Kottamia telescope 1.88 m[24][25] 1.88 m 74″ Single Egypt Egypt 1960
Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) 1.83 m 72″ Single Vatican City Mt. Graham International Obs., Arizona 1993[26]
72-Inch Perkins Telescope 1.83 m 72″ Single USA Lowell Observatory, Anderson Mesa USA 1964
Plaskett telescope[27] 1.83 m 72″ Single Great Britain Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Canada 1918
Copernico 182 cm[28] 1.82 m 72″ Single Italy Asiago Observatory, Italy (1350 m) 1976
1.8m Ritchey Cretien reflector[29] 1.8 m 72″ Single Korea Bohyunsan Optical Astronomy Observatory, Korea 1996
Sandy Cross Telescope[30] 1.8 m 71″ Single Canada Rothney Astrophysical Observatory 1996
Spacewatch 1.8-meter Telescope[31] 1.8 m 71″ Single USA Kitt Peak National Observatory, USA 2001
69-inch Perkins Telescope[32] 1.75 m 69″ Single USA Perkins Observatory, Ohio 1931–1964
165 cm telescope 1.65 m 65″ Single Moletai Astronomical Obs., Lithuania 1991
McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope 1.61 m 63″ Single USA Kitt Peak National Obs., USA 1962
AZT-33[33] 1.6 m 63″ Single Sayan Solar Obs., Siberia (2000m) 1981
1.6 m Perkin Elmer[34] 1.6 m 63″ Single Brasilia Pico dos Dias Observatory 1981
1.6 1.6 m 63″ Single Canada Mont Mégantic Observatory, Canada 1978
Kaj Strand Telescope[35] 1.55 m 61″ Single USA USN Obs. Flagstaff Station,USA 1964
61" Kuiper Telescope 1.55 m 61″ Single USA Steward Obs., Mt. Bigelow, USA 1965[36]
Oak Ridge Observatory 61" reflector[37] 1.55 m 61″ Single USA Oak Ridge Observatory, Massachusetts, USA 1933
Estación Astrofísica de Bosque Alegre[38] 1.54 m 60.6″ Single Argentina Estación Astrofísica de Bosque Alegre, Argentina 1942
Danish 1.54 meter telescope[39] 1.54 m 60.6″ Single Denmark La Silla Observatory, Chile 1979
Harvard 60-inch Reflector[40] 1.524 m 60″ Single USA Harvard College Observatory, USA 1905-1931
Hale 60-Inch Telescope 1.524 m 60″ Single USA Mt. Wilson Observatory; California 1908
Dunn Solar Telescope ex-VTT 1.524 m 60″ Single USA National Solar Obs.-Sacramento Peak, USA 1969
Palomar Observatory 60 inch[41] 1.524 m 60″ Single USA Palomar Observatory, California, USA 1970
FLWO 1.5m Tillinghast[42] 1.52 m 60″ Single USA F. L. Whipple Obs., Arizona 1994
Telescopio Carlos Sánchez (TCS) 1.52 m 60″ Single UK + Spain Teide Observatory, Tenerife (Spain) 1971
OHP 1.52 1.52 m 60″ Single France Haute-Provence Obs., France 1967
Mt. Lemmon 60" Telescope[43] 1.52 m 60″ Single USA Steward Observatory, Mount Lemmon, USA 1970
OAN 1.52 m[44] 1.52 m 60″ Single Spain Calar Alto Observatory, Spain 1970s
152 cm G.D. Cassini[45] 1.52 m 60″ Single Italy Mount Orzale, Italy 1976
TIRGO (Gornergrat Infrared Telescope)[46] 1.50 m 59″ Single IR Italy + Switzerland Hochalpine Forschungsstation Jungfraujoch und Gornergrat, Alps, Switzerland (3150 m) 1979–2005
AZT-22[47] 1.5 m 59″ Single USSR, Uzbekistan Mount Maidanak, Uzbekistan 1972
AZT-20[48] 1.5 m 59″ Single Assy-Turgen Observatory, Kazakhstan[49]
AZT-12[50] 1.5 m 59″ Single USSR, Estonia Tartu Observatory, Estonia 1976
RTT-150[51] 1.5 m 59″ Single Russia, Turkey TÜBİTAK National Observatory, Turkey 2001
OSN 1.5m (Nasmyth)[52] 1.5 m 59″ Single Spain Sierra Nevada Obs., Spain (2896 m) 1991
BST-1M[53] 1.5 m 59″ Single IR USSR Salyut 6, Earth Orbit 1977-1982
USNOFS 1.3m[54] 1.3 m 51″ Single USA USN Obs. Flagstaff Station,USA 1998
McGraw-Hill Telescope[55][56] 1.27 m 50″ Single USA MDM Observatory, Arizona (1975–Present)
Stinchfield Woods, Michigan (1969-1975)
1969
AZT-11[57] 1.25 m 49″ Single Abastumani Obs., Georgia (country) 1976
AZT-11[58] 1.25 m 49″ Single Crimean Astrophysical Obs., Ukraine 1981
MPIA 1.2[59] 1.23 m 48.4″ Single West Germany + Spain Calar Alto Obs., Spain 1975
Babelsberg Zeiss[60] 1.22 m 48″ Single Germany, USSR Babelsberg Observatory; Berlin, Germany, Crimean Astrophysical Observatory (1952–present) 1924
Galileo 122 cm[61] 1.22 m 48″ Single Italy Asiago Observatory, Italy 1942
Samuel Oschin telescope 1.22 m 48″ Schmidt USA Palomar Observatory; California 1948
OHP 1.20 1.2 m 48″ Single France Haute-Provence Obs., France 1943
Paris 48″ Reflector 1.2 m 48″ France Paris Observatory, France 1871-1943
Oskar-Lühning Telescope[62] 1.2 m 47″ Single Germany Hamburg Observatory, Germany 1975
Leonhard Euler Telescope[63] 120 cm 47″ Single Switzerland La Silla, Chile 1998
Mercator Telescope 120 cm 47″ Single Belgium+Switzerland ORM; La Palma, Canary Islands 2001[64]
Hamburg Robotic Telescope (HRT)[65] 120 cm 47″ Single Germany Hamburg-Bergdorf Obs., Germany 2002*
Hänssgen's reflector[66] 107 cm 42″ Single Germany Mobile (~Germany) 2002*
Grubb Parsons 40-inch 102 cm 40″ Single Sweden Stockholms Observatory in Saltsjöbaden 1930–present
Nickel Telescope 102 cm 40″ Single USA Lick Observatory, USA 1979
Grubb 40-inch 102 cm 40" Single USSR Crimean Astrophysical Observatory Simeiz (destroyed in WWII) 1925-1944
George Ritchey 40-inch (1 m)[67] 102 cm 40″ R/C USA Flagstaff, Arizona (Washington, D.C. until 1955) 1934
Yerkes "41-inch"[68] 102 cm 40″ Single USA Yerkes Observatory, USA 1968[69]
ZIMLAT[70] 100 cm 39.4″ Single Switzerland Zimmerwald Obs., Switzerland 1997
OGS Telescope[71] 100 cm 39.4″ Single European Space Agency countries Teide Observatory, Tenerife (Spain) 1995
Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope 100 cm 39.4″ Single UK + Netherlands Isaac Newton Group, Canary Islands 1984
Lulin One-meter Telescope (LOT)[72] 100 cm 39.4″ Single ROC (Taiwan) Lulin Observatory, Taiwan 2002*
Zeiss di Merate (1m reflector) 100 cm 39.4″ Single Kingdom of Italy Merate Obs., Merate, Italy 1926
Zeiss 1m reflector 100 cm 39.4″ Single Belgium Royal Obs., Uccle, Belgium 1920s
Hamburg Spiegelteleskop (1m reflector)[73][74] 100 cm 39.4″ Single Deutsches Reich (Germany) Hamburg-Bergdorf Obs., Germany 1911
1-m Carl Zeiss Jena 100 cm 39.4″ Single CCCP Assy-Turgen Observatory, Kazakhstan[49]
James Gregory Telescope 94 cm 37" Single Great Britain University of St Andrews, UK 1962
Kuiper Airborne Obs.(KAO) 91.4 cm 36″ Single USA C-141 (mobile) 1974–1995
Crossley Reflector[75] 91.4 cm 36″ Single US+UK Lick Observatory, USA 1896

This table does not include all the 20th largest mirrors manufactured; the Steward Observatory 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.

Selected large telescopes below about ~0.9 meter/90 cm (~3 feet/ 36 in.)[edit]

Some famous 20th century regionally famous telescopes, space telescopes, or otherwise significant. (100 cm = 1 meter)

Name Aperture
m
Aper.
in
Mirror/type Nationality/Sponsors Site Built/Used
Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope 90 cm 35.4″ Single UV USA STS, Earth Orbit 1990, 1995
Astron[76] 80 cm 31.5″ Single UV CCCP + France Earth orbit 1983-1989[76]
Ruisinger[77] 76.2 cm 30″ Single-Newtonian USA (ASKC) Louisburg, Kansas - Powell Obs. 1985
Infrared Space Observatory 60 cm 23.5″ IR (2.4-240 μm) European Space Agency Earth orbit (GEO) 1995-1998
IRAS[78] 57 cm 22.44″ R/C IR US + UK + The Netherlands Earth orbit 1983
Mons Telescope 50 cm 19.7″ Single Belgium Teide Observatory, Tenerife (Spain) 1972
Dutch Open Telescope (DOT) 45 cm 17.7″ Solar Denmark ORM, Canary Islands 1997
Explorer 57 (IUE) 45 cm 17.7″ Single UV US+UK+ESA Countries Earth orbit (GEO) 1978–1996
Glazar UV telescope[79] 40 cm 15.75″ Single UV CCCP Kvant-1 (Mir), Earth Orbit 1987-2001
Glazar 2 UV telescope[80] 40 cm 15.75″ Single UV CCCP + Switzerland Kristall (Mir), Earth Orbit 1990-2001
Mars Global Surveyor—MOC[81] 35 cm 13.8″ R/C USA Mars Orbit 1996–2006
XMM-Newton—UV camera 30 cm 11.9″ Single UV ESA Countries Earth orbit 1998
TRACE 30 cm 11.9″ Single EUV/UV/Vis NASA Earth orbit 1998-2010
Hipparcos 29 cm 11.4″ Schmidt European Space Agency Earth orbit (GTO) 1989–1993
Astronomical Netherlands Satellite 22 cm 8.7″ Single UV Nederlands & USA Earth Orbit 1974-1976
Galileo - Solid State Imager[82] 17.65 cm 6.95″ Reflector USA Jupiter 1989-2003
Voyager 1/2, ISS-NAC[83] 17.6 cm 6.92″ Catadioptric USA Space 1977
Spacelab IRT[84] 15.2 cm 6″ IR (1.7-118 μm) ESA + NASA STS, Earth Orbit 1985
Mariner 10 - TV Photo. (x2)[85] 15 cm 5.9″ Reflector USA Space 1973-1975
Deep Space 1—MICAS[86] 10 cm 3.94″ Single USA Solar Orbit 1998-2001
Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph[87][88] 7.62 cm 3″ Schmidt UV USA Lunar surface 1972
Voyager 1/2, ISS-WAC[83] 6 cm 2.36″ Lens USA Space 1977

At the end of the 20th century preliminary designs for Extremely large telescope of the 21st century were being worked on, as well as many smaller telescopes such as the Large Binocular Telescope

Refractors[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

Further reading from List of large reflecting telescopes and The World's Largest Optical Telescopes

  • "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[edit]