2008 Very Large Array
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The Very Large Array is a radio telescope operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and located on a plateau about 60 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico on U.S. 60.  We passed by on our way to Las Cruces this year.  When we were last here in 2004, we were on our way from Las Cruces to Flagstaff.



Sign on the visitor center in 2004.   A similar vantage point in 2008.  It's been cleaned up.
Exiting the van and going inside.  Yes, the excitement conveyed in these photos is so compelling you would think you were watching paint dry or something.


Kind of a miniature version of what you'll see on the walking tour.   You walk along flat paths past displays and signboards, and you get to go fairly up close to one of the big dishes.
Keep in mind that there's not a lot to see in the moving parts department at the VLA.  You go through an unstaffed visitor center which is well laid out, explains everything, and has a much needed restroom.  (The place is so remote and the stops by visitors so infrequent that it's probably not worth it to pay someone to do nothing but effectively stand around all day.  The gift shop, by contrast, WAS staffed.)

After the visitor center, you take a walking tour amongst some outdoor displays, and you get to get up close to one dish.  You also never see anyone, at least up close.  There might be someone far in the distance working on one of the dishes, but in and amongst the buildings that house the electronics and the scientists, there's no one, and you begin to wonder if there's anybody really there.  But we're assured they are! 

Once or twice a year (in April and October, I think) they do have guided tours to show visitors around.  But you either have to make a point of going there on the day of the tours or just be lucky enough that the day you're there happens to be the day of the open house.  I'm guessing that, for most of the people who are there on the open house day, it's the latter case.

You get a sense of the remoteness and openness of the place in these shots.
You can get right up to that brown fence.  We had a particularly nice day for our visit this time as you can see in the clear, blue sky.  When were here in 2004, it was cloudy, windy, and in the low 40s, and you would have thought it was November.  At an elevation of close to 7000 feet, you can get weather like that at nearly any time of year.  On the day of our visit, we were there in mid-morning, and the temperature was in the 50s with no breeze.   Here you can see some dishes from the front.  That building on the left is where they repair and maintain the dishes.  All of the dishes sit on rail flatcars, which is how they're moved around, and they can be moved right into the repair building.  When visiting, you're not supposed to walk over there, but you are invited to drive by the building in your vehicle.  If it's open, you can peer inside to see what's going on.
Above and below are a couple of the self-guided tour signs describing what you see and giving you information about the place. 


After leaving the VLA in 2004, we continued west on U.S. 60 and stopped for dinner here at the Largo Cafe in Quemado, New Mexico.    This picture was snapped as we passed by in 2008 on the way to the VLA and Las Cruces.  Looks pretty much the same.  There's even a white Suburban in front in both photos!  Are they the same?  No, because the one in the 2004 photo was one of our vehicles.  (Of course, maybe it IS one of our vehicles, still out front, four years later.  Come to think of it, I haven't seen Ben Stuart in a while.)