Friday, November 13, 2015

Monday and a Trip to the Very Large Array on Tuesday

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tom worked on small repairs around the Crusader, those "home" repairs needing attention. Example: some loose screws and a cupboard door that was not closing.

I crocheted.

Otherwise we were sitting with feet up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Today we visited the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array.
To say it was windy out would be an understatement.
It took two of us to hold my phone when we took these selfies.
 I am not sure how Tom's hat stayed on.

The elevation is 7,000 feet, plus, add the flatness
and that may explain the winds.

The road ahead and views out my side window
 as we drove to Socorro.

Still on 60 West but no longer on I 25 South
heading towards VLA.

More views out my side window.

Some interesting information about moving livestock in this
part of New Mexico. The sign has letters with the color
missing but you can still make out what it is saying.
This driveway was used from 1885 until trucking took over
trailing and the last portion was officially closed in 1971.

When you leave the Visitor Center this Solar Radio Telescope
 is at the first stop. It works at a frequency of about 10 GHz.
When pointed at various points in the sky it shows the
relative strength of the radio signals coming into the system.

LWA is a low-frequency radio telescope
designed to produce high-sensitivity,
high-resolution images in the
frequency range of 10-88 MHz 

The LWA and the VLA together will greatly expand the knowledge of the energetics and properties of many cosmic objects and events, the sun and the ionosphere. Though it shows a picture of them at this location we only observed this one at station 4.

On the way down the path to one of
27 dish-shaped antennas, the only one we
could get close to, Tom caught a tumble
weed flying by.

Standing under this antenna as it actually changed position
was something to see. Then you look over and see they are
all turning in unison.  Each antenna is 82 feet across made from
smooth aluminum panels fitted carefully onto a steel basket.
They weigh 100 tons and motorized drives steer them around
and dip them up and down to keep them pointed exactly on
the radio source for several hours at a time.

The brochure we were given, stated most of the staff is located in Socorro, but  a core of 50 staff members, including 24-hour security, are on-site. Most of the astronomers who are awarded observing projects on the VLA are located around the globe.  On their behalf, a telescope operator controls the VLA as it observes the radio sky for 5,000 hours every year both day and night.

The views from each of the 27 active antennas in the array are sent down fiber optic cables to a supercomputer. This supercomputer mathematically merges the 27 views, uniting the array into one single super telescope.

This is the control building.
There is an observation deck facing the array. Visitors are
allowed up on the deck to observe and take pictures. The
entire array can be seen from here.

These are located in an area in front
of the Control Building.

Bracewell Sundial
The world's first "radio sundial"

The Barn and the spare antennas.

Planning  for a "very large array" began in the early 1960's and was authorized by the US Congress in 1971. Site work on the Plains of San Agustin in New Mexico began two years later. In 1975 the first antenna was assembled and 1976 with only two antennas the VLA began observing the radio skies. In 1977 with six antennas operational the VLA became a full-time telescope. All 27 antennas of the array, including the spare 28th, were completed in January 1981. In 2012 after decades of planning and retrofitting. The VLA was transformed by a new suite of receivers, a supercomputer, and the replacement of its old wiring with nearly 3,000 miles of fiber optics. It was then rededicated to the father of radio astronomy Karl G. Jansky.

Since it first began watching the skies in 1976, the VLA has observed nearly 43,000 different cosmic objects.

(Most of the above information was taken from the signs
throughout the tour and our walking tour map.) 

"Our passion for learning ... is our tool for survival."
                                                             ~Carl Sagan

As this is getting lengthy, more information about our Tuesday in the next post.


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