About two hours south of Albuquerque, in the middle of nowhere, sits the Very Large Array. But it turns out that the middle of nowhere is perfect for an array of radio telescopes that spans 22 miles in its widest formation. There’s also little chance of interference from radio and tv broadcasts, wifi, and cell signals.
We took a guided tour of the VLA, which allowed us to visit the control center and chat with a telescope operator. We also walked the path of the (very informative) self-guided tour. There are a few exhibits and several placards explaining the history and the science of the VLA.
We were lucky to visit when the VLA was in a hybrid formation. We got to see most of the telescopes clustered together, and watch them rotate in unison. And we also got to see a couple on the far end of one of the arms, which gave us a good sense of the immense scale of the VLA. (We saw these on the drive in/out, about 10 minutes from the main site!)
Does the VLA look familiar? Maybe you remember it from the movie Contact, with Jodie Foster! Scenes from Independence Day, The Arrival, and Terminator Salvation were also filmed here. Check out our movie of the VLA (a hyperlapse telescope rotation) on Instagram!