The Very Large Array Socorro, NM

by Bridget Harrington - Michael Moore June. 06, 2018 673 views

Our state has long been a hotbed of scientific activity, technology and development. The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (known as VLA or simply, The Very Large Array) is a centimeter-wavelength radio astronomy observatory located ~50 miles west of Socorro, in a large rural expanse between Magdalena and Datil. It is interesting to drive for miles and miles, seeing open land, mountains and scrub brush, as we so often do, and suddenly come upon this.

The VLA comprises twenty-seven, 25-meter radio telescopes deployed in a Y-shaped array and all the equipment, instrumentation, and computing power to function as an interferometer. Each of the massive telescopes is mounted on double parallel railroad tracks, so the radius and density of the array can be transformed to adjust the balance between its angular resolution and its surface brightness sensitivity. It is a multi-purpose instrument designed to allow investigations of many astronomical objects, including radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, supernova remnants, gamma-ray bursts, radio-emitting stars, the sun and planets, astrophysical masers, black holes, and the hydrogen gas that constitutes a large portion of the Milky Way galaxy as well as external galaxies. In 1989, the VLA was used to receive radio communications from the Voyager 2 spacecraft as it flew by Neptune. A search of the galaxies M31 and M32 was conducted in December 2014 through January 2015 with the intent of quickly searching trillions of systems for extremely powerful signals from advanced civilizations.

The VLA has also been used to carry out several large surveys of radio sources, including the NRAO VLA Sky Survey and Faint Images of the Radio Sky at Twenty-Centimeters. Astronomers using the VLA have made key observations of black holes and protoplanetary disks around young stars, discovered magnetic filaments and traced complex gas motions at the Milky Way's center, probed the Universe's cosmological parameters, and provided new knowledge about the physical mechanisms that produce radio emission.

Recently, scientists picked up a definite "sound" from space through one of the telescopes. We wonder what - or who - it was...

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