This totally isn’t an opportunity to list the amazing names that scientists have given telescopes (seriously though, these are actual names for cutting-edge telescopes which involve hundreds, if not thousands of scientists in collaboration and which yield a deeper understanding of our universe).
The Very Large Telescope (VLT)
The Very Large Telescope is a… well, it’s a very large telescope. Operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), it is located in the Atacama Desert in Chile at an altitude of 2,626 m where there is little water vapour in the atmosphere. This is important as the VLT is designed to detect visible and infrared light, and infrared light is easily absorbed by water molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT)
Okay, we get that they just wanted to point out how large the telescope is. The E-ELT, also operated by the ESO, is currently under construction in the Atacama Desert (it’s quite the sweet spot for optical and infrared telescopes). With a diameter of 39 metres, it will, according to the ESO’s specifications, be able to produce images 16 times sharper than those by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This is quite an impressive feat given that the HST floats around above the Earth’s atmosphere where there is a clearer view of everything. The first images are expected to be taken in 2024.
The Overwhelmingly Large Telescope (OWL)
The Overwhelming Large Telescope (OWL) was planned to have a whopping 100 metre diameter aperture and a resolving power 1,500 times greater than the HST, but the projected cost of €1.5 billion was considered too high. (I have a feeling that the actual reason was because a few killjoy scientists didn’t agree with the name).
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)
I want to say that the aperture is actually 31 metres in diameter, but sadly I would be feeding you lies. The TMT, to be operated by the TMT International Observatory, is currently under construction on the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Construction is continuously being postponed since the land is claimed to be sacred to native Hawaiian culture, although the telescope is expected to be ready by 2022 anyway.
Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)
The largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, SALT consists of 91 hexagonal mirror segments which combine together to form a larger 11.1 by 9.8 metre hexagonal mirror. SALT is able to image faint objects which cannot be seen by northern hemisphere telescopes. It has such a great name, I hope nobody got… salty.
The Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT)
They’re not wrong, it is indeed… extremely little. KELT monitors transiting exoplanets around bright stars. KELT consists of a KELT-North in Arizona and a KELT-South in South Africa for complete coverage of the sky over the course of the year.
Grinding through many years of education and scientific research is all worth it when you get to name civilisation-advancing scientific instruments.