Nelson and the VLA

ToadDate 0014.10.12.2016-NM

We had time today to visit with Lewis’ friend from first grade, Nelson Johnson. Nelson lives in Belen, NM, which is about 40 miles from Albuquerque. We had lunch at Pete’s Mexican restaurant in Belen (Nelson said it’s the best restaurant in Belen).

After lunch we left for the Very Large Array (VLA) about 50 miles from Belen. The VLA is a field of 27 satellite dish like listening devices, which can be moved over a 22 mile long track (Check out the movie Contact with Jodie Foster). Each dish is 82 feet in diameter. To move the dishes a special railroad track has been installed. There are two specially outfitted track vehicles that run on parallel tracks, they move under the dish and then lift it from a pedestal and move it to another one.

The VLA visitor center includes a walking trail with stops where equipment is set up so you can see it up close. There is one place where there are two parabolic dishes with modified horns (the part of the array that transmits the sounds to the computers) set up about twenty feet apart. With a person standing at each of the horns, you can talk very softly and the other person will hear you as clearly as if they were standing beside you. Pretty amazing.

Speaking of amazing, the computers that the space sounds are sent to process 16 quadrillion calculations per minute. These computers plot, track, and create drawings of the sounds. These sounds show black holes, gases, and stars throughout the universe. Really neat stuff and set up so that non-science people can understand and appreciate.

From the backseat during the trip to the VLA and back, I can say Nelson and Lewis did not stop talking the entire time. Lewis is typically very quiet but not when Nelson was around. It was fun listening to them talk about their experiences.

And to conclude this post, I am including a couple of videos about traveling and living in our RV. Hope you enjoy.



One thought on “Nelson and the VLA

  1. When we were stationed at New Mexico Tech in Socorro NM from 1985-1988 we lived on the mountain above Magdalena which is very near to the VLA. One of our friends was a senior scientist there and we got a private tour of the facility and got to go out and watch them move the dishes around. Very interesting. We used to cut firewood just past the VLA near Datil, NM which was wonderfully remote. If you get a chance, visit the area from Gallup down to Silver City, on either side of the NM-AZ border, as that is the best part of NM/AZ in my opinion.


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