It is the world’s most powerful radio astronomy telescope, an array of 27 giant dish antennas aimed at the universe surrounding our planet Earth. Since its first observation in 1975, the Very Large Array (VLA), located 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, has scanned the skies to learn cosmic secrets invisible to even the most powerful optical telescopes.
The VLA shows us the vast chaos caused by black holes, maps ice on the scorched Mercury planet, watches the sun form inside their dusty gas cocoons, and even found a hole in the Universe a billion light years across.
Capturing radio waves.
The power of the VLA antenna.
Parabolic VLA dish.
The parabolic dish bounces waves to a single spot called focus. The receiver turns the waves into an electronic signal that travels to a supercomputer to be combined with signals from other antennas. VLA maps the radio Universe!
Size of the dish.
An international research center.
Why in New Mexico?
Because the region is high, flat, and far from the city. The Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico, offer a large flat area to permit proper placement and easy movement of the antennas. The mountains ringing the plains provide protection from man-made electrical interference. Lastly, the height above sea level minimizes the blurring effect of the atmosphere on radio images.
There are 27 antennas.
How heavy is an antenna?
Visit the VLA and admire the radio Universe!
Address: 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, 87825
Phone: (575) 835-7000
VLA site GPS coordinates: 34 04’43.497N and 107 37’05.819W
The VLA site and Visitor Center are open daily from 8:30am until sunset. Visit the VLA Gift Shop from 9:00am until 4:00pm daily.
Admission is $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for Seniors (65+), ages 17 and under are free. Socorro and Catron County Resident Adult bringing out-of-town paying guest is free.