The Very Large Array
The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) is a radio astronomy observatory located on the Plains of San Agustin, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, some fifty miles (80 km) west of Socorro, New Mexico, USA. The VLA has 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.
The VLA stands at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m) above sea level. It is a component of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).
U.S. Route 60 passes through the complex, which is adjacent to the Boy Scout Double H High Adventure Base.
The observatory consists of 27 independent antennas, each of which has a dish diameter of 25 meters (82 feet) and weighs 209 metric tons (230 Short tons). The antennas are arrayed along the three arms of a Y-shape (each of which measures 21 km/13 miles long). Using the rail tracks that follow each of these arms—and that, at one point, intersect with U.S. Route 60 at a level crossing—and a specially designed lifting locomotive (“Hein’s Trein”), the antennas can be physically relocated to a number of prepared positions, allowing aperture synthesis interferometry with a maximum baseline of 36 km (22 mi): in essence, the array acts as a single antenna with that diameter. The smallest angular resolution that can be reached is about 0.05 arcseconds at a wavelength of 7 mm.