Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Very Large, Indeed

I visited the Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory, today, west of Socorro, New Mexico. The array is one of 10 National Radio Astronomy Observatories in the United States (and its Territories). The VLA consists of 27 antennas, each 25 feet in diameter and 82 feet in height, each working together to produce the effect of one large and powerful antenna. The component pieces are placed on three 13 miles tracks that radiate from the center compound. The antennas can be positioned in several arrangements along these tracks. The VLA studies a variety of astronomical features including quasars, pulsars, black holes, gamma ray bursts, supernova remnants, radio galaxies, and the dark matter that fills much of the universe.