Friday, October 1, 2010

Visitors Get Unique Chance To Visit Array

By John Larson

SOCORRO - The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is sponsoring its semiannual Very Large Array open house Saturday, Oct. 2, to coincide with the Trinity Site’s open house.
According to the VLA’s Education Officer Judy Stanley, the Very Large Array is commemorating 30 years of operation.
The 27 (82 foot) radio antennas at the VLA became operational on Oct. 10, 1980, and has become the most scientifically productive ground based telescope in the entire history of astronomy, Stanley said.
Guided tours will be given by special NRAO staff members between 11 a.m.  and 4 p.m.
 “Tours leave every half hour. This is a wonderful opportunity for the public to get behind the scenes and into places they can’t normally on the self-guided tour,” she said. “They will be able to speak with staff engineers and operators and ask questions. The guided tour takes about an hour. Just drive up to the visitor’s center and join the next group going out.”
Visitor will learn about new advancements at the Very Large Array, including the “Expanded VLA,” which is the upgrade from analog to digital systems.
Currently the dishes are in the “D” configuration (the tightest array), making for an excellent photo opportunity.
The visitor’s center houses several displays and video presentations of the installation, as well as the scientific discoveries. One display is dedicated to the filming of the major motion pictures “Contact” and “2010.”
The turnoff to the VLA Visitor’s Center is 15 miles west of Magdalena on Highway 60.
The Very Large Array is open to the public for self-guided walking tours every day of the year except Christmas. The daily self-guided tours do not include the labs and array control areas.

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