IRAM 30m telescope

Coordinates: 37°03′58″N 3°23′34″W / 37.066161°N 3.392719°W / 37.066161; -3.392719
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IRAM 30-metre telescope
Alternative namesPico Veleta observatory Edit this at Wikidata
Part ofEvent Horizon Telescope Edit this on Wikidata
Location(s)Veleta, Sierra Nevada, Dílar, Monachil, Spain Edit this at Wikidata
Coordinates37°03′58″N 3°23′34″W / 37.066161°N 3.392719°W / 37.066161; -3.392719 Edit this at Wikidata
OrganizationInstitut de radioastronomie millimétrique Edit this on Wikidata
Altitude2,850 m (9,350 ft) Edit this at Wikidata
Wavelength0.8 mm (370 GHz)–3 mm (100 GHz)
Telescope styleradio telescope Edit this on Wikidata
Diameter30 m (98 ft 5 in) Edit this at Wikidata Edit this at Wikidata
IRAM 30m telescope is located in Spain
IRAM 30m telescope
Location of IRAM 30-metre telescope
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The IRAM 30-meter telescope is a radio telescope that observes astronomical objects in the millimeter range of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is operated by the Institute for Radio Astronomy in the Millimeter Range (IRAM) and located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Spain, close to the Pico Veleta peak. With its large surface and wide-angle camera, the telescope is capable of exploring large cosmic objects. It is one of the largest and most sensitive millimeter wavelength telescopes in the world, serving over 200 astronomers annually. The telescope is primarily used to study interstellar clouds, star birthplaces, galaxies, and black hole jets.

Together with IRAM's second facility, the NOEMA observatory, the telescope is part of the global Event Horizon Telescope array. It was the only station in Europe to participate in the 2017 EHT observing campaign that produced the first image of a black hole.[1]


Built from 1980 to 1984,[2][3] the telescope operates at 2850 meters above sea level. Due to its large surface, in the shape of a parabola and 420 panels adjusted to a precision of 55 micrometers, the IRAM is one of the most sensitive single dish radio telescopes in the world.[1] The telescope can be pointed towards a celestial source, allowing astronomers to build up radio images of complete galaxies or regions of star formations.

The telescope is equipped with a suit of heterodyne receivers and continuum cameras operating at wavelengths of around 0.8, 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 millimeters. The telescope can observe these wavelengths simultaneously, allowing it to produce multiple images of the same region in different wavelengths at once.

IRAM also offers guided tours through the observatory and public talks during the summer months. A virtual tour is provided on IRAM's website.[4]


Unlike optical astronomy telescopes, which are suitable for observing hot objects which emit visible radiation, radio telescopes that operate in the millimeter wavebands can view much colder objects that emit lower frequency radiation. For instance, supermassive black holes are very cold, with some larger black holes on the order of 10⁻¹⁴ °K, and as such the Event Horizon Telescope is composed of radio telescopes. Cold cosmic objects include planets, distant galaxies, and large gas clouds.[3]

As part of the Event Horizon Telescope array, the IRAM 30-meter telescope obtained the first-ever image of a black hole. The IRAM 30-meter telescope also produced the first high-resolution radio observations of the heart of the Milky Way galaxy and its black hole named Sagittarius A* in 1995 along with the NOEMA array (formerly the Plateau de Bure Interferometer). Together with NOEMA, it discovered one-third of the interstellar molecules known to date.[5]



  1. ^ a b "Event Horizon Telescope Captures First Image of Black Hole | Astronomy |". Breaking Science News | Retrieved 2019-04-10.
  2. ^ Baars, Hooghoudt, Mezger, & de Jonge (1987). "The IRAM 30-m millimeter radio telescope on Pico Veleta, Spain". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 175: 319–326.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b Encrenaz, Gómez-González, Lequeux, and Orchiston (2011). "Highlighting the History of French Radio Astronomy. 7: The Genesis of the Institute of Radioastronomy at Millimeter Wavelengths (Iram)" (PDF). Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage. 14 (2): 83–92. doi:10.3724/SP.J.1440-2807.2011.02.01. S2CID 128919605.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ DiVertiCimes. "IRAM, 30m observatory, Pico Veleta | Virtual tour generated by Panotour". Retrieved 2023-08-15.
  5. ^ McGuire, Brett A. (2018). "2018 Census of Interstellar, Circumstellar, Extragalactic, Protoplanetary Disk, and Exoplanetary Molecules". The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. 239 (2): 17. arXiv:1809.09132. Bibcode:2018ApJS..239...17M. doi:10.3847/1538-4365/aae5d2. S2CID 119522774.