8 Most Expensive Telescopes Ever Sold

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The first telescopes were Dutch, patented in 1608. The original magnification strength of these tubes containing convex and concave lens was 3x to 4x. From the original eyeglass maker, Hans Lippershey, to the works of Kepler to the high-tech telescopes today capable of seeing stars and protoplanets, the telescope has been a long-standing mainstay of astronomical research.

Continue reading to learn about the most expensive telescopes that money can buy, as well as the most expensive and powerful that have ever been built.

The Most Expensive You Can Buy

4. Meade 16” LX600 ACF Telescope with StarLock

Price: $19,499.99
Brand: Meade
Focal length: 3251mm
Meade 16” LX600 ACF Telescope with StarLock
photo source: Opt Corp

The Meade 16” LX600 ACF Telescope with StarLock telescope is among the most expensive telescopes that money can buy. The telescope has a 16” aperture and a focal length of 3251mm. It has a focal ratio of f/8 and comes with a heavy fork mount supported by a super-giant field tripod.

The StarLock technology utilized in this telescope includes a Reverse Crayford Focuser and an AutoStar II Control system.

This tech centers the eyepiece of the lens and tracks it within an arcsecond of accuracy, allowing the user to accurately pinpoint the location of any specific star.

The telescope sells for $19,499.99.

Did you know?

The AutoStar II controller by Meade is compatible with the LX200, LX600, and LX850 series of telescopes. Meade started in 1972 and sold small refractor telescopes and accessories by mail, manufactured by the Towa Optical Company in Japan.

In 1976, they started making their own telescopes and are now known for their high-quality devices like this LX600 rig.


3. AstronSCIENTIFIC T21 Hermes Traveler Astroimaging & Viewing Optical Tube Assembly

Price: $22,999
Brand: AstronScientific
Focal length: 3600mm, 600mm, 480mm
AstronSCIENTIFIC T21 Hermes Traveler Astroimaging & Viewing Optical Tube Assembly
photo source: B&H

This AstronSCIENTIFIC T21 Hermes Traveler Astroimaging & Viewing Optical Tube Assembly has a huge name, fit for an expensive, multi-purpose imaging device.

This universal telescope can be used to view planets and other deep space objects using its T21 Hermes build, which has parts sourced from optics manufacturers around the world, including Japan.

It’s a great fit for teachers and professors who want to achieve mid-high astroimaging without an observatory.

The telescope doesn’t come with a mount, but it can be set up in just a few minutes. It comes with the tube, a motorized focusing assembly, Rotarion CAM kit, wheel, and AutoFocus.

Multiple viewing ports of the telescope have different focal lengths for different observations. The whole assembly retails for $22,999 on B&H.

Did you know?

AstronSCIENTIFIC was founded in Barcelona, Spain in 2013. The Rotarion System devices are their babies, including numerous optical design and optimization accessories. These include an eyepiece wheel, CAM kit, and more.


2. DayStar Filters SolaREDi H-Alpha Solar Telescope

Price: $35,990
Brand: DayStar
Focal length: 2667mm
DayStar Filters SolaREDi H-Alpha Solar Telescope
photo source: B&H

The DayStar Filters SolaREDi H-Alpha Solar Telescope is the most expensive solar telescope that you can buy. It retails on B&H Photo Video for $35,990. This telescope has been engineered for research by astronomy pros, with an integrated Hydrogen-alpha solar filter and a 127mm refractor solar scope.

Its focal length is 2667mm, with a focal ratio of f/21. It uses a carbon fiber optical construction that helps keep the device as light as possible while maintaining its stability and strength.

Since the telescope could conceivably be used in extreme temperatures, the device uses metal tubes to resist contraction and expansion.

Did you know?

This solar telescope uses a digital display to help the user fine-tune the telescope’s range. This solar telescope could be considered especially expensive since it only comes with the OTA (optical tube assembly), which weighs 13.6 pounds. To use it properly, you have to buy a tripod and mount separately.


1. PlaneWave 1 Meter Observatory Telescope

Price: $575,000
Brand: PlaneWave
Focal length: 6000mm
PlaneWave 1 Meter Observatory Telescope
photo source: Opt Corp

The PlaneWave 1 Meter Observatory Telescope is the most expensive telescope that money can buy. The full system weighs 2,600 pounds and has a focal length of 6000mm. The device’s foundation is the PW-1000 1 Meter Telescope with a dual truss design.

Its mount is a reverse L-Series Direct Drive system that can carry its 300-pound load.

The system has a focal ratio of f/6, which is basically the best in the business. It eliminates gears from the system, replacing them with Direct Drive motors and encoders.

This vastly increases the telescope’s capacity for observation by eliminating periodic error and visual backlash.

Did you know?

PlaneWave was founded by Richard Hedrick and Joseph Haberman, former Celestron engineers. They have developed several industry-changing devices including the CDK telescope optical system, which stands for Corrected Dall-Kirkham.


The Most Expensive Ever Made

4. Atacama Large Millimeter Array

Price: $1,400,000,000
Completed: March 13, 2013
Manufacturer: Route to Space Alliance
Contractor: General Dynamics C4 Systems
Atacama Large Millimeter Arra
photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The ALMA or Atacama Large Millimeter Array includes 66 radio telescopes capable of observing electromagnetic radiation.

They are located at an elevation of 16,000 feet on the Chajnantor plateau, completed in March 2013 for $1.4 billion. This makes it the most expensive ground telescope ever built.

ALMA represents a partnership between the United States, Europe, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Chile, and Taiwan. Scientific observations from ALMA started coming back in late 2011.

It entered full operation in 2013 and had its 1000th paper published in 2018.

Did you know?

Telescopic imaging noise can be caused by humidity, which is a major reason that this array was constructed on a high plateau where the humidity and temperature are lower. Scientists expect ALMA to start returning data on planet and star formation from distant regions of space within the decade.


3. European Extremely Large Telescope

Price: $1,600,000,000
Completed: N/a
Manufacturer: European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere
Contractor: AdOptica, INAF
European Extremely Large Telescope
photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The European Extremely Large Telescope is a part of the European Southern Observatory and has yet to be completed. As of now, it has cost the manufacturer $1.6 billion, making it the third most expensive telescope ever constructed.

It collects 13 times more light than the world’s largest existing telescopes, utilizing 256 times the amount of light-gathering area as Hubble.

The telescope is designed to observe yet-unseen phenomena of deep space such as black holes in the Universe’s “dark sector.”

It will even be able to detect organic molecules like water in newly formed dust and gas rings called protoplanetary disks.

Did you know?

Protoplanetary disks were first observed in July 2018. They surround newly formed stars and are made of gasses and dusts that can eventually fall to the inner edge near the surface of the star and begin the process of forming planets. The European Extremely Large Telescope may be able to observe this process first-hand for the first time.


2. Hubble Space Telescope

Price: $2,500,000,000
Completed: April 24, 1990
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin and Perkin-Elmer
Contractor: Rockwell International
Hubble Space Telescope
photo source: Flickr

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in April of 1990 and entered service on May 20 of the same year. It was manufactured by Lockheed Martin on the spacecraft side and Perkin-Elmer on the optics side. Hubble represents the culmination of space telescope theories proposed back in 1923.

It was finally built in the 1970s.

It is the only known telescope built for space maintenance by astronauts. The telescope has been repaired or upgraded on five space missions as part of NASA’s Great Observatories program.

Hubble is estimated to be capable of operations until the 2030s (if you didn’t know, the Great Observatories program was a system of four enormous telescopes launched in the 90s and early 2000s, including Hubble, the Spitzer Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory).

Did you know?

The Hubble Space Telescope initially had a much earlier launch date scheduled. However, in January 1986, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger stifled the U.S. space program’s development and grounded their missions.

During the time the space program was stalled, NASA stored the Hubble Space Telescope in a medical-grade clean room, sterilized with a solid atmosphere of nitrogen. It didn’t launch until April 24, 1990.


1. James Webb Telescope

Price: $9,700,000,000
Completed: December 25, 2021
Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman, Bail Aerospace, L3Harris
Contractor: Arianespace
James Webb Telescope
photo source: Flickr

The most expensive telescope ever built is the James Webb Space Telescope. Stealing the top spot from Hubble’s long-standing record is this new telescope which launched less than a year ago on December 25, 2021, entering service on July 12, 2022.

It was launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, Bail Aerospace, and L3Harris.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s mirror uses 18 hexagonal mirrors constructed from gold-plated beryllium, giving it six times the light-collecting area of Hubble. This gives it the ability to observe light in ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light spectrums.

The telescope requires extremely cold temperatures, below -370 degrees Fahrenheit. Astonishingly the telescope cost $9,700,000,000 to complete.

Did you know?

The Ariane 5 rockets are heavy-lift launch vehicles from Europe, launched from French Guiana from the CSG or Centre Spatial Guyanais. It had 82 successful launches before the Ariane 6 went into development. It hasn’t been launched yet.

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