The Very Large Array

A Peek into the Universe

While there are several places around New Mexico that are marvelous spectacles of natural beauty and amazing landscapes, there are some places that stand out to be quite unique when it comes to tourism. Although you will really need to look around with the eye of local knowledge to find these places, there is one particular place that you don’t have to look so hard to find. To be honest, you would be able to see it even if you were in space – literally. So what is this place that sets itself apart in such a unique manner? The answer to that could only be three words that hold so much importance in terms of connecting with the universe around us. Those three words are Very Large Array. Located towards the west of the city of Socorro, this radio astronomy laboratory is situated between two small towns named Datil and Magdalena. Having given a lot of important contributions to the world of astronomy, this place has been playing a very crucial role in observing black holes, discovering magnetic filaments, probing the cosmological parameters of the universe and a lot of invaluable information about radio emission production. The giant antennae look like a scene from a sci-fi movie when you look at them for the first time. The intriguing nature of the observatory and the fact that it is open to public access has made it one of the most visited tourist spots in all of New Mexico. Read on to find out more about it.

About the Observatory

In 1972, one of the most famous names in the field of astronomy, David S. Heeschen became the person to convince the Congress of the United States about the creation of the VLA observatory and half a year later the work on the construction of the observatory began. The first antenna was placed here in the year 1975 and five years later in 1980 when it was all done, the VLA observatory became the place with a configuration of the most powerful radio telescopes that was also the largest in the whole world. The cost of the project at that time was US$78.5 million.

The observatory is home to a collection of 27 independently operating antennae placed around the whole place, strategically. The diameter of each dish is 82 feet and each one weighs is a colossal 209 metric tons. The mechanism that has been set to move the dish about is very impressive and just looking at it move is a sight unlike anything you have ever seen.

The observatory has been the focus of media in a lot of movies and that started to happen immediately after the completion of the construction with the first movie being released in the year 1984 named 2010.

Visiting the observatory

The VLA observatory is visited all year round by throngs of tourists who come to admire this huge feat of technological advancement. The observatory is open only during daylight hours and if you visit on the month’s first Saturday, you can be a part of a special guided tour that takes you behind the scenes and into the science. There is also a small museum where you can look at several artifacts and tools related to astronomy. A theatre is also built there where you can get a detailed look into the history and service of this amazing place and how it is run. For those of you wanting to keep a piece of this place with you when you go back from here, there is a gift shop too from where you can buy all sorts of things. Most of the time the tours are self guided as the place is usually not staffed. The weather can be tricky sometimes in this place and there is little food available so make sure you are well prepared for your visit.

The Very Large Array is a great marvel of advanced engineering and astronomy and it also represents a key role that the United States has been playing in connecting our world with the universe surrounding us. Do go for the cost-free visit of the VLA observatory if you ever find yourself in New Mexico.