Walking among giant antennas: Very Large Array (VLA) Tour
Magdalena Travel Blog› entry 5 of 5 › view all entries
June 15th, 2008 – by: aerynn
In reality, no astronomer would ever listen to this data, it does not make sense to do so...but in any case, the VLA is the site featured in the film, and also the site of much valuable radio astronomy that has been accomplished to date!
The VLA site is approximately an hour drive away from New Mexico Tech campus in Socorro, NM. The nearest town is called Magdalena, which is why I chose it for the location.
We were lucky enough to be able to climb into the antenna dishes; our first stop of the tour. The height yielded a beautiful view of the Array, and a unique perspective into the receivers and equipment, much of which was housed in the antenna receiver cabins below the dish.
We toured the correlator and IF/LO rooms as well. I will spare you the technical details on what this stuff is about, and suffice it to say that it met my needs as far as my inner geek is concerned.
A new project called ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) is being tested at the VLA site. The full array is being built in the Atacama Desert in Chile, but there are two test antennas at the VLA that we were able to check out. They have a mini-correlator set up and have been successful in their tests so far.
Among frolicking jack rabbits, we walked out to see the antenna transporters. That's right, these devices actually lift up the gargantuan antennas and move them on tracks. The array is expandable this way to accomodate different resolution requested by the astronomers who use the array.
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All content and photographs copyright 2008 Erin Brassfield
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