At an elevation of over 7,000ft out on the wide St Augustin plain is The Very Large Array, somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for ages. Unfortunately each time we’ve been in the area, we've been thwarted by the weather, usually one of New Mexico’s famous dust storms.
This time we made it!
The VLA was built in the 1970’s, and has a small visitor centre. On arrival you are asked to switch off all electronic equipment as it interferes with the telescopes. You can however use digital cameras.
As it was cold and very windy we decided to take the self-guided walking tour first and look around the visitor centre afterwards, so we could thaw out!
At ⅛th of a mile long the walking tour takes you round part of the site, there are information boards along the way, but most of these were being renewed on our visit.
The walking tour takes you right under this telescope, which makes you realise just how huge they are, sometimes you can hear the telescope being adjusted.
The telescopes are moved along railway lines to form different configurations the distance between each telescope allows the scientists to perform different searches.
The film Contact was filmed here, but computer graphics put many more telescopes on the site and moved Canyon De Chelly from Arizona to New Mexico.
Back in the visitor centre we watched a 9 minute video about the site and then looked at some of the things the VLA has discovered.
This is our view of the array from the road, and yes that was rain coming from those clouds.
Have fun, we are!