Gallery: the Very Large Array
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
Nice close ups of their structure, Sarah! The name of that place always cracks me up. 😀
Thank you Siobhan 🙂 I agree about the name – it’s as if they were considering for ages, couldn’t think of anything in the least bit creative or interesting, and ended up just calling it what it is!
Neat seeing a close up from the under belly of the telescope as I’d never seen one from that angle before.
It was great to be able to get so close!
I. J. Khanewala
The VLA is really amazing, especially when they are tracking something really faint. Then you see the antennae slowly seem to move as they compensate for the earth’s motion while staying fixed on one point in space.
Yes, the science behind this is amazing – it must be a wonderful resource for astronomers, astrophysicists etc.
At first I didn’t realise it, but towards the end I could really see just how huge these antennae are!
It’s only really in the photos with people that you can get a sense of the size of these dishes!
Aletta - nowathome
Your photos are amazing! So much detail andinteresting to see it close up!
Thanks so much 😊
These are rather fabulous photos, Sarah! I love the close ups.
Thank you Jo, glad you liked them!
Terrific choice Sarah – our local TV station has a similar set of discs which always amaze me with their size – although I’ve never thought to photograph them!! Well chosen.
Thank you Tina 🙂 I’m glad to give you some inspiration perhaps to photograph your local discs!
Excellent. SPACE, destined to be a frontier for a lonnnnnng time, I think.
Thanks John – and is it the ‘final frontier’?!
Awesome sight and well photographed Sarah! We also have radio telescopes in Northern California. When we were near them, my husband went to see them but I stayed in the trailer. Now I’m wishing I went there too. I wasn’t into photography then. ☹
Thank you Anne 😀 I hope you get another chance to get close to radio telescopes like these, now that you are into photography!
I’m a sucker for pictures like these Sarah. Not only is the subject of interest to me generally, but the telescopes are really photogenic, especially against a backdrop of brilliant blue skies – and I haven’t even mentioned the skills of the person behind the camera yet 😊
Thanks so much Malcolm 😊 Yes, the blue sky really added to the impact of these huge telescopes!
Great photos from different angles which allows us to see the details from the side, back, and front. Excellent take on, Sarah.
Thank you Amy, that’s exactly what I was hoping to achieve 🙂
Sarah, they are certainly mechanical devices, and that visitor center provides a great place to learn about the purpose and operation of the giant radio telescope. If it sounds like I’ve been there, I have. >grin< When we were there, though, we didn't get the opportunity to see any of them move.
It is hard to imagine how large these are from a photograph unless, like in a couple of your images, you include people. They really are massive.
Glad you’ve had the chance to see them too! I agree about the Visitor Centre, it was all fascinating 🙂