8 Key Astronomical Observatories around the World

Did you know that we have a dedicated day for the asteroids? Yes, every 30th of June is sanctioned by the United Nations as World Asteroid Day. The aim is to educate people about asteroid opportunities and threats. Therefore, today is an appropriate day for sharing about eight significant astronomical observatories around the world.

University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory, Chile

Let's begin with the highest one, in terms of altitude, among the astronomical observatories around the world. University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory (TAO) is situated on the summit of Cerro Chajnantor (lava dome). The region is in a scientific reserve called Atacama Astronomical Park in Atacama Desert, Chile. TAO is situated at an altitude of 18500 feet above sea level. It has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘World's Highest Permanent Astronomical Observatory'. Atacama Salt Lake is visible from the summit. In spite of extremely harsh weather conditions; the observatory is renowned for successful infra-red observations of the Milky Way and other galaxies.

Paranal Observatory, Chile

Latin America has no dearth of observatories. There are a few significant ones in Chile itself. Paranal Observatory in Atacama, Chile, is one of the most popular astronomical observatories around the world. By total light-collecting area, it is the largest optical-infrared observatory in the Southern Hemisphere; worldwide, it is second. There are four pivotal telescopes that are simultaneously used for extra light-gathering and interferometry (to do with angular resolution). They are named after astronomical objects in the Mapuche language (spoken in South-Central Chile). The names are ‘Kueyen', ‘Antu', ‘Melipal' and ‘Yepun'. On weekends visitors are entertained with a guided trip.

South African Astronomical Observatory, South Africa

South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is located in Sutherland, South Africa. It is one of the most well-known astronomical observatories around the world because of SALT. SALT is of course not the one we use for cooking. It is the largest optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. SALT stands for South African Large Telescope. SAAO welcomes visitors regularly. One must not miss the night trip.

Mauna Kea Observatory, U.S.A

Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) are a number of astronomical research facilities. They are located at the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, United States. It is extremely popular among astronomical observatories around the world. The observatory houses some of the world's largest telescopes. One is even larger than SALT in South Africa. The facilities are spread across a sprawling 525-acre special zone called, ‘Astronomy Precinct'. The region is located inside 11228 acres Mauna Kea Science Reserve. Most observatories are situated at very high altitudes and this is no different. MKO is situated at an altitude of 14000 feet. The Hawaiian Islands and the volcano make MKO additionally attractive. The night sessions for visitors are an experience in itself.

Roque De Los Muchachos Observatory, Spain

Roque De Los Muchachos Observatory is one of the most picturesque astronomical observatories around the world. It is situated at 8000 feet above sea level on the Island of La Palma. The island is part of the beautiful Canary Islands of Spain. The site is considered the second-best location for optical and infrared astronomy. Second after Mauna Kea Observatory in the United States, in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the most extensive astronomical observatory, popular for its fleet of telescopes. It also houses the largest solar telescope in Europe.

Sphinx Observatory, Switzerland

Situated above Jungfraujoch, Bernese, Swiss Alps, on a rocky summit at 11.8 k feet. It tops the chart of popularity among astronomical observatories around the world. This is because the spot is an extremely favored tourist spot. Few movie scenes have also been shot here. The open deck is accessible to the public for viewing snow-clad peaks (Jungfrau, Monch, Eige) of the beautiful Swiss Alps. It is adjacent to the observatory.

The Indian Astronomical Observatory, India

India's highest astronomical observatory is The Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO). It is located at 14.8 k feet at Hanle near Leh in Ladakh. IAO is one of the World's highest astronomical observatories. The location is remote and beautiful. The cloudless skies and low atmospheric moisture make it one of the best sites in the world; especially for optical, infrared, sub-millimeter, and millimeter wavelengths. For commoners, it is star gazers' paradise. Hanle is a hidden gem for landscape lovers; coupled with vast barren fields, pashmina goats, wild mules, beavers, and different birds.

Greenwich Observatory, England, United Kingdom

The Greenwich Observatory in London is the prestigious home to the Prime Meridian; which geographically splits the world into two halves. The Global time zones are based on Greenwich. This is what makes Greenwich one of the most special astronomical observatories around the world. The scientific works have been shifted to other locations. Greenwich Observatory is a prominent Museum of Astronomy. It is one of the world's most visited museums. The guided trip begins from the Meridian Courtyard with the brass strip marking the Meridian Line. This is what attracts maximum visitors, besides the lovely scenic location. It is situated on a small hill overlooking the Thames River.

An Interesting Fact:
The oldest astronomical observatories of the pre-modern times are; Al-Shammisiyyah Observatory, Baghdad, Iraq (825 AD) and Mahodayapuram Observatory, Kerala, India (869 AD).



A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.

14 thoughts on “8 Key Astronomical Observatories around the World

  • June 30, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    Very interesting info. And more interesting to note there was an observatory in Kerala centuries back!

    • July 1, 2021 at 11:19 am

      Yes Deepu you are from ‘God’s own country’ after all.

  • July 1, 2021 at 1:55 am

    That is so fascinating! I’ve always found the universe to be intriguing. I can only imagine being able to see it from places like these.

  • July 1, 2021 at 7:52 am

    I would love to visit each and every one of these. My youngest would love it!

  • July 1, 2021 at 8:52 am

    I’d like to visit an observatory and see the heavenly bodies for myself. I hope to be given the opportunity to do that.

  • July 1, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    WOw! I didn’t know there was a day for asteriods! I haven’t visited any of these observatories but it would be cool to get to one one day. Thanks for sharing!

  • Pingback: 7 Prominent Astronomical Observatories in India | Kuntala's Travel Blog

  • July 2, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    That sounds like a great place to visit and imagine all the amazing things you’ll see. Thanks for sharing this informative post with us.

  • July 2, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    Wow! I am a big fan of astronomy! I’d love to visit all these sites! To the bucket list you go!

  • July 3, 2021 at 2:30 am

    Wow! I love astronomy a lot. I hope I can visit all these observatories soon. Maybe after the pandemic?


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