Very Large Array Visitor Center


Radio telescopes receive radio waves emitted by celestial bodies and convert the signals into images by using high-speed computers and video displays. The radio signals are very weak, requiring the use of very large receivers. Because a huge dish would likely collapse under its own weight, engineers created the Very Large Array (VLA), which uses interferometry to combine the signals from 27 82-foot-diameter dishes to make an image equal to that produced by a telescope 22 miles across. Positioned along three railroad spurs in the form of a Y shape, the VLA's dishes are physically linked by cable, making it the world's largest of this type.

Activity Details

Activity Type:Trips and Destinations
Discipline:Other
Topic(s):Space/Transportation
Grade:K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Time:Full day

Fun Fact:In 1930, Karl Jansky, a Bell Telephone engineer, discovered that mysterious static interfering with transoceanic radiotelephone conversations was, in fact, radio emissions coming from the Milky Way. His discovery was largely ignored, however, until after WW II, when radar technology was used to establish the scientific field of radio astronomy.
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