ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array, will be the largest and most sensitive telescope in the world at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths (10mm-350micron). It is what is known as an 'aperture synthesis' telescope and will consist of 64 antennas, each 12 metres in diameter. It will be built on the plains at Chajnantor, at 5000m above sea level in the Atacama Desert in Chile.
Credit: ESO.

Anglo Australian Telescope

Commissioned in 1974, the Anglo-Australian Telescope was one of the last 4-metre equatorially mounted telescopes to be constructed. Its excellent optics, exceptional mechanical stability and precision computer control make it one of the finest telescopes in the world. Also important to the AAT's success has been its suite of state-of-the-art instrumentation, which is constantly being upgraded and improved. It is run by the Anglo-Australian Observatory on behalf of the astronomical communities of Australia and the UK.
Credit: Barnaby Norris.


In December 2006, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) initiated a three-year Phase B study of a 42-m European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). In 2010 a full construction proposal will be compiled, including plans for the first generation instrumentation suite. The UK is playing a leading role in development of the science case and instrumentation for the project.
Credit: ESO.

Gemini South

The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8-meter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on our planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai'i and Chile, Gemini Observatory's telescopes can collectively access the entire sky. The Gemini South telescope is located at almost 9,000' elevation on a mountain in the Chilean Andes called Cerro Pachon.
Credit: Gemini Observatory.

James Clerk Maxwell Telescope

With a diameter of 15m the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) is the largest astronomical telescope in the world designed specifically to operate in the submillimeter wavelength region of the spectrum. The JCMT is used to study our Solar System, interstellar dust and gas, and distant galaxies. It is situated close to the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, at an altitude of 4092m.
Credit: JAC.

James Webb Space Telescope

JWST is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and it will be almost three times the size of Hubble. JWST has been designed to work best at infrared wavelengths. This will allow it to study the very distant Universe, looking for the first stars and galaxies that ever emerged.
Credit: ESA/NASA.

The Herschel Space Telescope

The European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory has the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. At 3.5-metres in diameter, the mirror collects long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. In addition, Herschel is the only space observatory to cover a spectral range from the far infrared to sub-millimetre.
Credit: ESA/NASA.

Mauna Kea, Hawai'i at sunset.

Mauna Kea, Hawai'i at sunset.


The world's largest telescope dedicated solely to infrared astronomy, UKIRT is sited in Hawaii near the summit of Mauna Kea at an altitude of 4194m above sea level. It is owned by the United Kingdom Science and Technology Facilities Council and operated, along with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), by the staff of the Joint Astronomy Centre, which is located in Hilo. The operation and development of UKIRT are overseen by the UKIRT Board.
Credit: JAC.

Very Large Telescope

The Very Large Telescope array (VLT) is the flagship facility for European ground-based astronomy at the beginning of the third Millennium. It is the world's most advanced optical instrument, consisting of four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors of 8.2m diameter and four movable 1.8m diameter Auxiliary Telescopes. The telescopes can work together, in groups of two or three, to form a giant 'interferometer', the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer, allowing astronomers to see details up to 25 times finer than with the individual telescopes.
Credit: ESO.


VISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) is at ESO's Paranal Observatory. VISTA is a survey telescope working at infrared wavelengths and is the world's largest telescope dedicated to mapping the sky. Its large mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive detectors will reveal a completely new view of the southern sky.