This universe is curious. The world of stars, galaxies, and the cosmos has always intrigued human beings about their existence, history, as well as future. Thanks to scientific and technical research and advancement, now humans can easily gather information about the nature of the universe, the galaxies, and the stars. With that being said, the world’s best observatories will let you sneak peek into the world of the cosmos, as a result of which you are able to quench your thirst for curiosity! The list of great observatories of the world is endless, and you may wonder which ones are considered the best. Lucky for you, we’re here to help you choose which one is the best observatory to visit! So, what are you waiting for? Keep reading and take a look at what we have in store for you!
Table of contents
- Atacama Large Millimeter Array, Chile
- The University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory, Chile
- Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico
- Kitt Peak National Observatory, USA
- Yerkes Observatory, USA
- Mauna Kea, USA
- Sydney Observatory, Australia
- Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory, Spain
- South African Astronomical Observatory, South Africa
- La Silla Observatory, Chile
- Paranal Observatory, Chile
- Just So You Know:
Atacama Large Millimeter Array, Chile
Still, this observatory is located near the VLT and Tokyo University Observatory in the Atacama Desert. It’s a state-of-the-art telescope specifically designed to study light from the universe’s coldest subjects. Like the name of the observatory, the light’s wavelengths are around a millimeter. Thus, it’s also known as millimeter and submillimeter radiation.
This observatory holds an array of 66 12-meter as well as 7-meter diameter radio telescopes. Also known as ALMA, it is a result of a partnership between the USA, Europe, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Chile. It’s also the most expensive ground-based telescope, so it’s only fitting to name it one of the world’s best observatories.
The University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory, Chile
Similar to some great observatories of the world, this observatory of the University of Tokyo is located in the Atacama Desert in Chile. It is located on the summit of Cerro Chajnantor at an altitude of 5,640 feet, making it one of the world’s best observatories and the tallest! Since this observatory is an infrared light observatory, it has to be set at a high altitude.
The final goal of this project is to build the TAO telescope. One of the first steps to achieve this goal is the construction of a pilot telescope, the miniTAO, which was completed back in 2009. In 2013, the construction of the TAO telescope finally began. This telescope will feature two major instruments, which include the MIMIZUKU and SWIMS, and they’re going to be installed later this year.
Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico
The Arecibo Observatory is one of the world’s best observatories in Puerto Rico. It was completed in the year 1963, and until 2011, the observatory was managed by Cornell University. This observatory has a 1,000 feet radio telescope, considered one of the largest single-aperture telescopes in the world. The telescope is mainly known for its participation in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence project. We recommend staying at one of the best hotels in Puerto Rico if you plan on visiting.
However, it seems like luck hasn’t always been on this observatory’s side. In 2017, Hurricane Maria did some damage to the telescope. Then, in December 2020, one of the telescope’s supporting cables snapped, causing a part of the telescope to collapse and partially damaging the buildings near it. Luckily, no one was injured. After that, it was announced that the telescope wouldn’t be rebuilt as the damage was too extensive to be repaired. However, a first-class learning center will be established on the site!
Kitt Peak National Observatory, USA
The Kitt Peak National Observatory was founded in the year 1958. This observatory is located at an altitude of 6,880 feet above sea level and is considered the most diverse observatory. As the best observatory to visit while you’re in Arizona, this observatory is home to over 20 optical telescopes as well as 2 radio telescopes. Visitors can get their hands on this observatory’s three telescopes. It is open to the public during the observing programs that take place every night of the week.
Also, did you know that this amazing observatory is widely popular for housing the first telescope? It’s an ancient 91 cm reflector used to hunt for asteroids that are heading toward the Earth and calculate the likelihood of a possible collision. By the way, if you plan to visit this place, you should wear layers of clothing as the temperature tends to be cool and windy.
Yerkes Observatory, USA
The story of the Yerkes Observatory of Wisconsin, USA, started back in 1882. That year, a boy named George Ellery Hale had a huge curiosity about since, and he then installed his telescope on his rooftop in Kenwood. A decade later, he and his father built an observatory featuring a 12-inch telescope. His passion and ideas then culminated in the creation of the Yerkes Observatory, which is home to three telescopes, including the one Hale made when he was a boy.
Many people consider this observatory one of the great observatories of the world. Unlike some of the world’s best observatories, this one doesn’t boast those high-end technologies. However, the same is described as the birthplace of modern astrophysics. Thus, this clearly depicts the importance of this observatory in the world. This observatory is located at Williams Bay, at an altitude of 1,050 feet respectively. You can also join one of its tours, which includes the Space & Spaces Tour, Director’s Hidden Spaces, and Star Party on 3/17.
South Pole Telescope, Antarctica
We have Antarctica’s South Pole Telescope or SPT, the best observatory to visit in Antarctica. It’s a telescope with a diameter of 10 m and is located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. This telescope started all its astronomical observations at the beginning of the year 2007, and the same has been operating as one successful telescope of the south pole area ever since. It’s designed to measure the cosmic microwave background (CMB), among many other things.
Fun fact: this telescope was initially designed to explore dark energy, which was responsible for the acceleration of the universe’s expansion. No wonder it’s called one of the world’s best observatories! And if you can’t wait to visit this awesome observatory finally, you can visit it virtually by clicking here!
Mauna Kea, USA
Mauna Kea is located at an altitude of 14,000 feet above sea level sea on Hawaii’s one and only Mauna Kea. It’s also considered one of the world’s most famous astronomical observatories. There is a clear sky 90% of the year, thereby making this volcanic mountain attractive to astronomers! Around 11 countries have set up their shop at this observatory, considering its favorable weather and sky conditions. This makes this observatory a home base for some of the biggest telescopes in the world.
All visitors who deal with altitude sickness at the top can find the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station below the summit. Additionally, you can also spot many telescopes which are available for public use! They include a solar telescope that’s fitted with protective filters to let you stare at the mighty sun. We also think the nighttime sessions at this observatory are something that you must not miss experiencing.
Sydney Observatory, Australia
While there are plenty of things to do in Sydney, visiting the Sydney Observation is a must. The amazing Sydney Observatory is positioned to give you a clear image of the night sky and a beautiful view of Sydney Harbor. One of the world’s best observatories, the inside of this place is all about the operation of a planetarium and a museum that can house a wealth of meteorology, astronomy, and timekeeping equipment. And as the best observatory to visit while you’re in Sydney, it also features a shop where you can find a great selection of books about the observatory as well as a vending machine and water bubbler!
Once you have finished exploring and browsing this observatory during the daytime, you must reserve the nighttime by making the most of observing one of the two telescopes of the observatory. A computer controls the first one, and the second telescope is an 1874 refracting telescope which is also considered to be the oldest working telescope throughout the territory of Australia. This observatory is made open from 10 AM to 5 PM daily. You always get the opportunity to reserve your nighttime session in advance by way of doing it online. And for accommodation, you should stay at one of the best hotels in Sydney!
Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory, Spain
The Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory is located in Spain. It’s considered to be one of the world’s best observatories and one of the most popular ones. It’s situated at the best spot in Spain’s Canary Islands, which fetches you all the astronomical-friendly atmospheric conditions so that you can make the most while touring this amazing observatory. More than 60 scientific institutions from 17 different countries have visited to observe the fleet of telescopes that are stationed in this observatory.
One of the world’s great observatories, it’s also considered one of the most extensive observatories on Earth. It is located at an altitude of 8,000 feet above sea level. The most sought-after telescope here is the Swedish 1 m Solar Telescope, the largest solar telescope in Europe.
South African Astronomical Observatory, South Africa
Now, let’s travel to Cape Town, South Africa! Founded in 1820, the South African Astronomical Observatory is home to the South African Large Telescope, also known as SALT. SALT also happens to be the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. It features a mirror that measures 11.1 x 9.8 m! It’s ridiculously big, isn’t it? This telescope is so powerful in nature that it can detect objects that are billion times faint to be seen or observed with the naked eye!
You can take a tour of this observatory during the day or can even head back after sunset to make the most of the beautiful sights of the night sky by way of two dedicated visitor telescopes. Make the most of the tours organized here as you get to know more about the giant universe. Also, you can attend the open lectures about astronomy on the second Saturday of every month here! Truly a remarkable research facility!
La Silla Observatory, Chile
Another best observatory to visit while you’re in Chile is La Silla. It’s also considered an ESO-operated observatory, which happens to be another observatory in Chile. This observatory is located at the mountaintop of La Silla, at an altitude of 8,000 feet above sea level. Thus, the entire location is free of light pollution, boasting good weather at the same time. These conditions are considered to be the best conditions for stargazing. No wonder many people see it as one of the world’s great observatories.
This observatory boasts a collection of various telescopes, one of the most famous among which is the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher. This telescope constantly remains on the hunt for extrasolar planets. You can make the most of the free guided tours carried out here during the weekends. However, you should note that you can only reserve the tour via online form only. Furthermore, kids who are younger than four aren’t allowed, and the tours could be canceled if the weather doesn’t allow it.
Paranal Observatory, Chile
This observatory is located in Chile and is considered a major hotspot for science. Chile already has a number of observatories, and this happens to be the most popular among them. In addition to that, it’s also one of the world’s largest! The European Southern Observatory operates the Paranal Observatory. It’s made open to the weekend visitors who come to see the Very Large Telescope here. The VLT comprises four small telescopes: Kueyen, Antu, Melipal, and Yepun, which mean Moon, Sun, Southern Cross, and Venus, respectively. As the name suggests, each telescope features a primary mirror that’s 8.2 m in diameter. These telescopes are used in context to create an interferometer, allowing astronomers to see the details up to 25 times finer than with individual telescopes.
You can make the most of the guided tours carried on here, especially during the weekends. They don’t charge you, but a reservation is required. As one of the world’s best observatories, Paranal also boasts an accommodation for its staff and visitors. ESO Hotel at Cerro Paranal has been welcoming guests since 2022. Many people call it the “boarding house on Mars,” as the desert surroundings remind people of Mars. It boasts not only gym facilities but also a swimming pool and restaurant.
Just So You Know:
- Generally, the world’s best observatories are established on hills and mountains. This is because they demand a clear sky and air to see properly.
- Most observatories are away from cities with plenty of light pollution. That’s because too much light can prevent astronomers from seeing out of the telescope properly.
- The first pre-modern European observatory is at Uraniborge on the island of Hven. King Fredrick II built it in 1576.
- Did you know that astronomy is also called the “oldest science in the world”?