Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Very Large Array (VLA)

I could go on and on about the details of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array (VLA) located just west of Soccoro, New Mexico, but the above link will do a better job than I ever could have dreamed of. For those who can't be bothered with clicking on such distractions, here's the gist of it; the VLA consists of twenty-seven large radio telescopes (which look like giant satellite dishes) that "listen" to the stars, not for literal radio transmissions, but for naturally occurring radio emissions from stars, planets, quasars, and the like. Using so many (relatively) smaller dishes in unison makes it virtually as if it were a single dish twenty-two miles across. Again, for the click-inclined, this link will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the subject.

The VLA was a must-see on our recent trip to New Mexico, but it looked like we would miss out. I said it was "just" west of Soccoro, but really it was more like an hour west of it in the opposite direction of where we were going, literally in the middle of what seemed like nowhere (that'd be the beautiful Plains of Agustin). A change in plans put it back on the itinerary, and we were off! Here's some pics, unfortunately it was a tad cloudy, but it's all good.

The short clip up top was supposed to be this pic. It was one of those cases where you have 'movie' setting still turned on the camera, oh well. Anyway, if you look in the distance you can see them out there. At first, my heart sank 'cause I thought this would be the closest we would be allowed; always read the signs.

I do own other shirts, but any time I post a pic of myself I'm in this one apparently. This was supposed to be my 'confidence in science' look.

A small handful of the dishes on the drive in.

The grounds were surprisingly rampant with wild snakes, rabbits, and desert hares. The look on my co-pilot's face is from listening to her Dad ramble on about these freakin' radio telescopes for the last hour, haha.

Even the tiles in the bathroom were cool, heh.

We didn't have a ton of time on our hands, so we had to skip the walking tour that would take us for hike around a majority of the telescopes themselves.

I think this one was being repaired, it was isolated from the others, maybe it was just in timeout.

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