VLA Radio Telescope Array

Andrew Gonzales and Alex Webb

Location and Background

The VLA Array is located roughly 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico within the Plains of San Agustin where it is cradled in the mountains away from electromagnetic pollution, the array is also high enough to remove most ill-effects of the atmosphere. Currently the array is made up of 27 total telescopes, with the first telescope being built in 1975.

How VLA Works

VLA is a massive interferometer; this means that it operates by multiplying the data from each telescope together to form interface patterns. Simply, it tracks the radio sources (between 74mHz-50GHz) across the sky as the earth rotates and moves. It also uses a mathematical formula to make maps of its data.

VLA Discoveries

  • Discovered water in the form of ice on Mercury.
  • Detected a micro quasar, a black hole devouring a companion star, within our own Milky Way Galaxy in 1994.
  • First to detect gamma waves from a gamma wave burst in 1997. (from the sun)
  • First to discover the presence of a forming Einstein ring in 1987.

Future Expansion

NRAO, or the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, is planning expansion projects to increase the effectiveness and data collection of the array. NRAO Director explained their ambition to increase potential and data collection tenfold, in June of 2000. Current expansion projects are underway.