The massive radio telescopes of the Very Large Array, 27 of them, rise majestically out of New Mexico’s vast, otherwise almost empty, Plains of San Augustin like visitors from another world.
But these are not visitors from another world, but searchers for such a world.
These massive dishes (25 m/82 feet in diameter, and weighing 230 tons) are antennae. They are arranged in a Y formation and set on equally massive tracks that allow them to be bunched fairly close together (just a kilometre apart) or spread out over 36 kilometres. I don’t pretend to fully understand the science; but the broad principle is that by combining the signals picked up from several antennae, scientists can map radio sources from across the universe. Quite apart from their scientific significance I also found the dishes rather beautiful, and incredibly photogenic.
The site is open to the public for self-guided tours, enabling you to get close to the antennae. Only when you stand right next to one do you get a true sense of its huge size. We were in luck as one adjusted its position as we stood there, turning to point towards some new, unseen and distant object.
I’m sharing some of my images of the dishes for John’s Lens-Artists challenge theme this week. I don’t tend to take many photos of mechanical or industrial subjects; but I hope these are close enough to the topic!
The people should give you an idea of the size of these dishes
I visited New Mexico in 2011