Very Large Array

Visited 2015.10.03
Central New Mexico, on the Plains of San Agustin

It was a beautiful day when I visited the Very Large Array (VLA), and as luck would have it, the twenty-seven 25-meter radio telescopes were arranged in a tight configuration, which made it easier to photograph as a group. Weighing in at 209 metric tons each, the telescopes are arranged in a Y-shape and moved inward or outward atop double parallel railroad tracks, depending on the astronomers' desired angular resolution and surface brightness sensitivity. One of the world's best known radio astronomy observatories, in addition to its discoveries and scientific contributions, it's had repeated appearances in science fiction. It was something I had to check out.

Visiting the Very Large Array

The VLA is situated about 50 miles west of Socorro. Before my guided tour, I chatted up an astronomer that had volunteered in the visitor's center to answer questions and run small interactive experiments to illustrate certain concepts. When the tour concluded, the guide said there would be a Star Party that evening in Socorro, at the Etscorn Campus Observatory, so with nothing else planned, I attended. It was there that I ran into that same astronomer I had met earlier — he actually lived in the city, and worked at the VLA's data center in Socorro. He recognized me and in the course of our conversation, I filled him in on my trip plans and I guess he thought I was cool enough to invite out to a local night spot, where we bullshit over some beers, sang karaoke and met with some of his friends. He even let me crash on his couch, which saved me a few bucks. I had a lot of fun and it was a welcome break from traveling alone.