World's highest observatory

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List of highest astronomical observatories
List of highest astronomical observatories
Collection of ground-based observatories ordered by elevation above mean sea level
First Mountaintop Observatory
Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton in California, at 1,283 m (4,209 ft)
First High Altitude Observatory
Pic du Midi de Bigorre in the French Pyrenees at 2,877 m (9,439 ft)
Prominent Early 20th Century Observatories
Mount Wilson Observatory and Palomar Observatory in southern California
The University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory (TAO) has recently been inaugurated as the world's highest astronomical observatory. Situated at an altitude of 5,640 meters (approximately 18,500 feet) above sea level on Mount Chajnantor in the Atacama Desert, Chile, TAO surpasses all other ground-based observatories in elevation. This significant achievement comes after 26 years of meticulous planning and construction. TAO is equipped with a 6.5-meter optical-infrared telescope, making it uniquely capable of observing mid-infrared wavelengths with unprecedented clarity. This capability is particularly advantageous for studying planet-forming regions, evolving galaxies, and the earliest epochs of cosmic history. The observatory's high altitude and location in one of the driest areas on Earth minimize atmospheric interference, especially from water vapor, thereby enhancing its observational capabilities. The observatory features two main instruments: the Simultaneous-color Wide-field Infrared Multi-object Spectrograph (SWIMS) and the Mid-Infrared Multi-field Imager for gaZing at the UnKnown Universe (MIMIZUKU). SWIMS is designed to observe a large area of the sky in two wavelengths of light simultaneously, while MIMIZUKU focuses on the dustier regions of the Universe. These instruments will enable astronomers to efficiently collect data on a wide range of celestial objects and phenomena, contributing significantly to our understanding of the Universe. The construction of TAO at such a high altitude presented numerous challenges, not only technical but also logistical and political. The project required close cooperation with local communities, government authorities, and health agencies to ensure the safety of the construction process and future operations. Despite these challenges, the successful completion of TAO marks a major milestone in astronomical research, offering new opportunities for groundbreaking discoveries. TAO's inauguration has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the highest astronomical observatory in the world. This recognition underscores the observatory's unique position in the global astronomical community and its potential to advance our knowledge of the cosmos.
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