We're astronomy buffs. So in our driving all over New Mexico, we headed west when we were in Socorro for the 50-mile jaunt across scenic high desert to the Very Large Array. It's a coordinated arrangement of 27 giant parabolic radio antennae, each some 82 feet in diameter and tipping the scales at 230 tons. They are set on railroad-like tracks in a Y-shaped configuration. The tracks allow the antennae to be moved into one of four set patterns, which patterns determine the resolution of the array. The antennae are switched from one pattern to another about every four months.
The radio signals received by each antennae (radio telescope) are electronically combined such that the array in its entirety can have the resolution power of radio telescope 22 miles in diameter. Radio telescopes can pick up signals through interstellar dust, which would impede signals to light telescopes. And radio telescopes pick up signals from pulsars, stars which have imploded and become super-dense neutron stars rotating several times per second and sending out strong radio waves.
There's a visitor's center. A short video explained to us the moving of the antennae. Then we embarked on a short walking tour of our own.
Most interesting for us. For those not into astronomy, the site is worth the visit nonetheless.
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