The Very Large Array

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Is there anybody out there? Any pulsars? Can I get a show of hands? So to speak.

Today we returned to a place I’d been through once before but hadn’t had a chance to stop and really get a decent look at: The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. This telescope comprises 27 massive (82 feet across) radio dishes that can be moved around the desert on train tracks into different configurations in order to gather an accurate picture of what space sounds like. A computer capable of 16 QUADRILLION operations per second sews all the data together to create images of various sectors of the universe.

This dish was fairly close to the road; the dishes are so big you can see them probably 30 minutes before you reach them. For scale, those concrete blocks on which the entire apparatus rests are about as tall as I am.  The dishes are 94 feet high. For $6 ($5 with the military or AA discount) you can take a guided walking tour of the facility and get even closer to a dish along with some other interesting astronomy related objects.

We also saw a herd of antelope grazing near the telescopes, which was a treat for me, as I’ve never seen them in the wild. Should have stopped to take pictures, since they were right by the road. On our way out they were too far away for a good shot.

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