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.

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Capturing radio waves.

Radio waves captured by the VLA reveal the dusty birthplaces of stars and planets, violent collisions between distant galaxies, and powerful outbursts from around black holes.
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The power of the VLA antenna.

The universe is filled with fascinating, often hidden objects that give off invisible radio waves. The VLA scoops up these radio waves as they land on Earth.
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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!
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Size of the dish.

It is 82 feet across! With that size, two school buses could park end-to-end!
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An international research center.

Hundreds of astronomers from all over the world use the telescope to learn more about the cosmos that surrounds our planet.
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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.
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There are 27 antennas.

The connected array of 27 large antennas of the VLA create a telescope that is 22 miles in diameter! Because of this big diameter, it has greater “resolving power” or it can reveal finer detail.
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How heavy is an antenna?

A VLA antenna weighs 230 tons. Huge gears turn the dish around and move it up and down to aim at sources of natural radio waves out in space.
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Visit the VLA and admire the radio Universe!

This is the observation deck.
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very large array satellite dish new mexico

Contact.

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

Hours.

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 fee.

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.

Find your way.

Ready to travel? Search for a cheap hotel near the VLA.

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