Monday, March 10, 2008

Very Large Array (VLA)

VLA=Very Large Array. You know, of Jodie Foster fame in the movie, "Contact". As I had promised a few posts back (Silver City post), these are the images I spoke of. We drove down to Silver City the VERY scenic way. It was so worth it; the terrain that we had crossed through was so diverse; not to mention every single aspect of weather condition. Anyway, from the I-25, we head west on the 60 and go through Magdelena. West of that, before Datil on the San Augustin Plains, resides these giant radio telescopes. There are 27 giant dish antennas and you can visit it seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Normally, it is a self guided tour.
However, since I did know someone who worked there, I asked if we could get a 'behind the scenes' kind of tour. What a thrill! I could've easily spent more time there as I really am a science nerd (secret is out now). I always have a ton of questions!
The images here are in no particular order, but you might be able to make sense of them.
When these dishes need tweaking and fixing, they get taken in to that giant shed. All of these arrays have a railroad track by them and that big red machine comes and tugs them over to the giant shed. The folks who take care of these dishes can also climb up the stairs that are on them and there is a little room right below the dish part where they do some other kind of tweaking (really technical terms here, huh?). Can I say that I got to do that? Can I say that I got to crawl up into the dish part and sit in the middle looking up? Oh my gosh, what a thrill. It would've been better if there wasn't this biting cold wind whipping across the plains that day. I didn't take my gloves with me and my fingers felt like they were getting frostbitten!
The scientists and organization that oversee this project is called the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NARAO). You can also find them on the web at: http://www.nrao.edu/. Check out the link; it's a pretty informative site (I'm showing my nerdiness here; I think it's a pretty cool site).
If you live in New Mexico and you haven't made the trek down there, I highly recommend it! Perhaps at a warmer time of the year, though!

1 comment:

Laurie said...

You can say it Paula (that you got to sit in the dish) but only when no one is really listening. :) Generally frowned upon by management, I'm sure.

Great photos. I have an experimental print one of the antennas that I'll send you or bring to you one of these days. Not many people would care to have such a thing hanging on their wall.

Sorry I missed you that day -- glad you had fun.

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