The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

Timur has visited the biggest telescope in Eurasia, which is called BTA-6. It was built during Soviet times, in the Caucasian mountains. Conceived in the 1950s by Soviet scientists who wanted to peek deeper into space, it’s still active and now is used by Russian scientists. Here is the story and photos from Timur’s trip:

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The ridge on this valley where the telescope stands is 2100 meters above sea level.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

So here is the telescope. The size of its main mirror is six meters. The thing on the left is the construction crane which was used while constructing the dome.The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The height of the dome is 50 meters and its made of aluminum.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

Diameter is 45 meters and it can rotate. The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

Getting inside.The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

It took three years for the mirror to be manufactured!

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The stairway leads to the telescope.The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

Yuri says that the size of telescope is really tremendous. This is it in the photo – it can rotate smoothly on its platform.  This is the mirror part.The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

Light from the mirror reflects into this device on top.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

This is the door in the dome which can be opened.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

So now it is opened.The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The view..

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

When the door is open there is an access to the ladders that lead on the top of the dome.The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

And now the culmination moment – the iris doors of the mirror are slowly opening.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

And revealing the huge mirror inside.The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

After seeing the telescope, Timur went down to see the motors that make it work and rotate.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The telescope is supported with liquid supports. Some of them also use springs for added stability and smoothness.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

And here are the motors one floor down.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

If you go further down there is a shaft and bearings.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The foundation of the building is separated from the foundation of the telescope so as to avoid unnecessary vibrations.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

And here is where the scientists work.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

And here is where they take a rest.

The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia

For eighteen years up until 1975, this telescope was the largest telescope in the world, until an even larger telescope was made in America. Still, this one is very impressive!

Thanks to Timur for his efforts and trip!

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13 thoughts on “The Biggest Telescope in Europe and Asia”

    • Yes, you’re right, this is very rare place in Russia where a Soviet-era scientific facility is still well treated and in good shape, unlike many (most) of others – particle accelerators, lasers, tokamaks, labs, radioastronomy dishes, and many others across all the Russia which are now unused and left devastated.

      But. First some basic facts: 6-meter telescope depicted is at Zelenchukskaya observatory and those days was built just for the sake of geopolitical prestige, to beat the Americans with their 5-meter WWII telescope at Mt Palomar. But there were two major issues:

      the first – the Soviet optical industry (LOMO) wasn’t able of the desired perfomance and the first primary mirror was utterly debacle (it was far out of shape, large parts of it had to be blinded to prevent them from negative tributary to the telescope optical quality, and eventually even cracked to be replaced later with the second one;

      the second – the choice of the observatory location was a great mistake as there is a great yearly rate of cloudy nights and thus the efficiency of the telescope is far behind of the other top world observatories (Chile, Hawaii)

    • From what I gather, it is at least the biggest Eurasian single mirror optical telescope.
      Herschel Telescope in Spain is next, having a 4.2m aperture.

      Biggest, and aparently world biggest optical, would be the new GTC on the Canary Islands. (if one counts the Canaries as “Europe”, which at least is subject to debate.)

      • Why, “subject to debate” ? Canary Islands are definitely in Europe, although not in continental Europe) !

        Beside this, when you want big magnification, single mirror is not sufficient and you definitely need multiple-mirror telescopes…

    • Indeed not : the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) is much bigger than the BTA-6. The BTA-6 is “just” the biggest single-mirror telescope in Europe and Asia. But single-mirror technology is outdated now…

        • There is a small difference between Guyane Française and Canary Islands : Guyane Française is “département d’outre mer”, that is “oversea departement”, while Canary Islands has exactly the same status as any other region in Spain. So geographically speaking, is Canary Islands are in Africa, administratively speaking they are in Europe…

    • Seems you are badly informed 🙂

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_optical_telescopes_in_the_20th_century

      Since 1976 and the inauguration of the BTA-6, 70 of them have been built in “capitalist” countries, while only 2 have been built in “communist” countries (one in China and one in Russia).

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