7 Major Astronomical Observatories in Europe

An astronomical observatory is a reserved place where many telescopes are set up to look at space. There are also many single observatories. The telescopes are permanently affixed to the ground and cannot be moved. Astronomical research institutions work with observatories and hire people from many different countries to work there. Various methods are used to build astronomical observatories, and many countries have worked and combined their technology to make advanced telescopes.

In Europe, there are seven prominent and operational astronomical observatories.

Observatory NameLocationEstablishedTyoe
Gornergrat ObservatoryGornergrat, Switzerland1967Infrared, submillimeter
Sphinx ObservatoryBernese Alps, Switzerland1937Optical telescope
Pic du Midi ObservatoryPyrenees, France1878Optical, solar
Roque de los Muchachos ObservatoryLa Palma, Canary Islands, Spain1979Optical, infrared, solar, gamma ray
Teide ObservatoryTenerife, Spain1964Optical, solar, microwave
Calar Alto ObservatoryAlmeria, Spain1975Optical telescope
Special Astrophysical ObservatoryCaucasus Mountains, Russia1966Optical telescope

Gornergrat Observatory

There are two telescopes: one is installed in the Gornergrat Hotel, a KOSMA telescope on the southern side of the building, and an infrared telescope on the northern part.
Coordinates: 45°59′00″N 7°47′01″E
Altitude: 3,135 m (10,285 ft)

Image by Martin Moser from Pixabay

Sphinx Observatory

The Sphinx Observatory, Europe’s tallest observatory, was constructed in 1937. (one of the oldest astronomical observatories in the world). The observatory has a 76 cm telescope and is engaged in a long-term project. The public is welcome to visit the open observation deck next to the observatory, which is a major tourist attraction.
Coordinates: 46°32′51″N 7°59′6″E
Altitude: 3,571 m (11,716 ft)

Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

Pic du Midi Observatory

As the name implies, the Observatory is named after the peak Pic du Midi. Pic du Midi Observatory is the second oldest astronomical observatory in the world, behind Colombia’s National Astronomical Observatory (founded in 1878). It’s a well-known location for astronomical study.

The Telescopes at the top:

  • 0.55-metre telescope (Robley Dome)
  • 0.60-metre telescope (T60 Dome)
  • 1.06-metre telescope (Gentilli D)
  • 2-metre telescope (Bernard Lyot Telescope)

Coordinates 42°56′11″N 0°08′34″E
Altitude: 2,877 m (9,439 ft)

Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory

Canary Island is home to the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory. Many telescopes have been installed on La Palma Island, including the Gran Telescopio Canarias (10.4-meter reflecting telescope), which is one of the world’s largest single-aperture optical telescopes, and the William Herschel Telescope (4.20-meter optical reflecting telescope), which is Europe’s second-largest. In 1984, the first telescope to be put up at the observatory was the Isaac Newton Telescope.

list of telescopes in Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory:

  • Carlsberg Meridian Telescope
  • Dutch Open Telescope
  • Galileo National Telescope
  • Gran Telescopio Canarias
  • High-Energy-Gamma-Ray Astronomy
  • Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes
  • Isaac Newton Telescope
  • Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope
  • Liverpool Telescope
  • Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes
  • Mercator Telescope
  • Nordic Optical Telescope
  • Swedish Solar Telescope
  • SuperWASP
  • William Herschel Telescope

Coordinates: 28°45′49″N 17°53′41″W
Altitude: 2,396 m (7,861 ft)

Photo by Alice Wang via Flickr

Teide Observatory

On the Spanish island of Tenerife, the Teide Observatory is a well-known international observatory that covers 50 hectares and is 2,390 meters above sea level. The observatory has four solar telescopes, eight nocturnal telescopes, and four radio telescopes in operation. In the Teide Observatory, astronomers found many planets between 1998 and 2002.

Coordinates: 28°18′00″N 16°30′35″W
Altitude: 2,390 m (7,840 ft)

Image by Mammiya from Pixabay

Calar Alto Observatory

Calar Alto Observatory, built and owned by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Spain, is located on the Calar Alto (2,168 m) mountain in Spain. The five unnamed reflector telescopes are 138 inches, 87 inches, 48 inches, and 31 inches. In Europe, the 138-inch reflector telescope is the biggest.
Coordinates: 37°13′25″N 2°32′46″W
Altitude: 2,168 m (7,113 ft)

Special Astrophysical Observatory

The Russian Academy of Sciences, which is based in Russia, runs this observatory. The Radio Astronomical Telescope Academy Nauk 600 and the BTA-6 Telescope are housed in the Special Astrophysical Observatory. BTA-6 is surrounded by two tiny telescopes manufactured by Carl Zeiss ( German scientific instrument maker from 1816–1888).
Coordinates: 43°38′49″N 41°26′26″E
Altitude: 2,070 m (6,790 ft)

Photo by Vas Zhigalov via Flickr

Note: Except for a few observatories, several sizes of telescopes can be found inside the reserved astronomical observatory area.

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