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The Five Most Expensive Telescopes in the World


The telescope is arguably the most essential invention in astronomy. Telescopes have given us more insights about the universe and they have even changed some popular beliefs. For instance, they have shown us that the earth is not the center of the universe as we had earlier believed. They have also enabled us to see prominent features on the surface of the moon. Things such as craters and mountains on the moon can easily be seen by telescopes. Modern telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope by NASA are much more powerful and they have provided evidence of the presence of billions of galaxies, all which have numerous stars like our sun. If you are fascinated about seeing what the outer space is actually composed of, you might be thinking about purchasing a telescope. If you are a beginner, you may choose to buy a 4-inch (100mm) reflector which is cheap but less powerful. The telescope will give you a close look of large bright objects in the sky such as the moon and the evening planets. If you have the bucks, you can go for a powerful telescope which will ultimately cost you more. In this article we have compiled a list of five of the most expensive telescopes in the world.

5. Thirty Meter Telescope - $1.4 Billion

The development of Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii was quite unpopular among the natives. The telescope which is estimated to cost a whooping $1.4 billion is still under construction in Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea. The project, which is being funded by Intel is set to unveil a telescope which could give a resolution which is 12 times better than that of Hubble Space Telescope. The Thirty Meter Telescope has a 30 meter diameter mirror and is built in an 5 hectares complex.

4. Atacama Large Millimeter Array - $1.4 Billion

Located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, this powerful telescope was designed to give insights into how stars are formed as well as detailed imaging of how planets are formed. The telescope is located in a unique location at the Atacama desert. The location has a high elevation and low humidity which are essential in reducing noise and decreasing signal attenuation. The telescope became operational in 2011, with the first images being released to the press on 3rd October the same year. The telescope is made up of some high-precision antennae which can be moved across the desert to give a powerful variable zoom. At a cost of $1.4 billion dollars, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array is considered to be the most expensive ground-based telescope. With its functionality and design, its easy to understand why this telescope is so expensive and there is no doubt that it can do what most other telescopes can’t.

3. European Extremely Large Telescope - $1.6 Billion

When I saw images of the construction site for this massive telescope, I was amazed. The European Extremely Large Telescope will be the largest telescope ever upon its completion. The telescope will reside on top of the Cerro Armazones mountain in Chile. With a main mirror which is 39 meters in diameter, this ultra-advanced telescope will give us insights into extra-terrestrial life in about 10 years time. The telescope will be able to see deep into the Milky Way and even identify galaxies that are more than 13 billion light years away from earth. The development of the telescope is quite an ambitious project and with an estimated cost of $1.6 billion, the telescope’s development is well funded by governments of several countries.

2. Hubble Space Telescope - $2.5 Billion

Taking second spot on our list of the five most expensive telescopes ever, is the Hubble Space Telescope. Ground telescopes located on earth are considerably cheaper as compared to space telescopes. Coming in at number two on our list of the most expensive telescopes ever, is a telescope whose initial cost was estimated to be about $400 million but went on to cost a whooping $2.5 billion. The Hubble Space telescope was launched on earth’s low orbit in 1990 and is named after astronomer, Edwin Hubble. The building of the telescope started in the 1970s by US space agency, NASA. The Hubble Space Telescope has made some ground breaking discoveries in astronomy which have come at a cost. The cost of maintaining the telescope in space stands at $98 million per year and this explains why the telescope remains to be one of the most expensive telescopes ever. Some of the discoveries made by this telescope are the age and expansion of the universe which has ensured that the distances to Cepheid variable stars is measured more accurately. The telescope also established the prevalence of black holes and other solar system discoveries including impact sites from Jupiter’s collision with Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

1. James Webb Telescope - $9.7 Billion

Wrapping up our list of the most expensive telescopes in the world is The James Webb Telescope, which is the most powerful, and in extension the most expensive telescope in the world. Development of the telescope began back in 1996, with the initial launching date planned to be in 2007. It’s construction however was completed in 2016 at a total cost of $9.7 billion. The telescope is well designed to detect light from some of the furthest galaxies formed after the Big Bang. The cost of the telescope was initially planned to stand at $1 billion but due to technological development, the cost escalated to record levels. The high costs almost spelled doom for the project, with significant political pressure to keep the costs down. The telescope’s main mission is to reveal more about galaxy formation and evolution, to understand star formation, and to study how life began. You can expect the James Webb Telescope to continue coming up with more mindblowing discoveries with time.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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