Very Large Array (VLA), located off US Route 60, close to Magdalena , NM, is widely-used radio telescope in the world. It is part of National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). VLA project was approved by Congress in 1972, and the construction began a year later.
I try to visit VLA at least once a year. It is about 50 miles West of Socorro, NM, on US Route 60. The drive itself is entertaining, and somehow scenic, with the Magdalena Mountains on the west side and deserted landscape on the east of the road. The photos in this post are from October 2015.
VLA is an array of 28 independent antennae (27 working and 1 spare). Dish diameter is 25 meters, and weighs about 230 tons.
The antennae are placed on the tracks, which run in Y shape. The antennae can be moved on the tracks according to the configuration the observations is made (the longest, A configuration, 22.62 miles across, and the shortest, D configuration, which is 0.64 miles across). Larger structures, like galaxies, are observed with the D configuration, while A configuration (the longest) provides the observation in a greater detail. The schedule of the configurations can be found on NRAO website. VLA was in D configuration, the time I visited, back in October 2015.
Yes, they are really big. Crane truck, on the above photo, is like a toy truck next to a giant antenna. The photographs might not visually justify the size, but standing next to them, makes you perceive how massive the dishes are.
The sunsets are gorgeous around the Southwest (SW), due to the vast emptiness, temperature changes, and clouds in the sky. It was raining in the morning, the day that I visited VLA. The sky cleared up for an hour, prior to sunset, and I managed to take these photos. The sun got behind the clouds rapidly, and I couldn’t get the typical the SW background – burning red sky. I was happy to take the above photos, because it started raining heavily (see those dark clouds on the last photo), and I had to drive back. I am hoping to return to VLA in 2016.
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