The Southwest mountain region of New Mexico is known for its many beautiful vistas and its abundant wildlife, but in addition, there is a very interesting site to visit.
It is called the VLA (Very Large Array), and it is one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consisting of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin.
The VLA is located between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. U.S. Route 60 passes east-west through the complex. The VLA site is open to visitors year round during daylight hours. On every first Saturday of the month, special guided and behind-the-scenes tours are offered. A visitor center houses a small museum, theater, and a gift shop. A self-guided walking tour is available, as the visitor center is not staffed continuously.
Each of the massive telescopes is mounted on double parallel railroad tracks, so the radius and density of the array can be transformed to focus on particular bands of wavelength. Astronomers using the VLA have made key observations of black holes and protoplanetary disks around young stars, discovered magnetic filaments and traced complex gas motions at the Milky Way’s center.
In 1989 the VLA was used to receive radio communications from the Voyager 2 spacecraft as it flew by Neptune. It is not, despite depictions in popular culture, used to assist in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
The VLA has been featured in several movies, one of the more notable was “Contact” with Jodie Foster.
A visit to the VLA is well worth the effort, and will get you in the mood to visit one of the many ranches or properties for sale in the area.220px-USA.NM.VeryLargeArray.02 220px-Very_Large_Array,_2012