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Very Large Array & Expanded VLA Project

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Management and Operation of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory FY2010-2015  (Associated Universities Inc/National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Very Large Array (VLA) is considered by many to be the most productive radio telescope ever built. Dedicated in 1980, the array consists of 27 radio antennas, each 25 meters in diameter, that together make up a single radio telescope system. Astronomers from around the world have used it to make important observations of black holes and protoplanetary disks--the regions around young stars where planets form. VLA has been used to explore phenomena from the center of the Milky Way to the edges of the known universe.

The VLA antennas are in a Y-shaped configuration located on the Plains of San Agustin near Socorro, New Mexico. The individual dishes can be moved into various configurations to provide greater magnification, similar to the zoom lens in a camera.

The VLA is in the process of being upgraded into a more capable research instrument: the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA). By 2012, new state-of-the-art electronics and software will give EVLA more than 10 times the VLA's sensitivity.
The VLA and ELVA are part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is operated by Associated Universities, Inc. under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

Education & Outreach

The Very Large Array offers numerous opportunities for hands-on education and training.  The Visitor Center offers information, films, and a self-guided walking tour.  VLA staff members conduct tours for educational groups, and undergraduate classes can also arrange hands-on observing time using the array.

The observatory conducts formal education and training programs for K-12 teachers and undergraduate college faculty, in addition to programs for students. These include Radio Astronomy for Teachers, a credit course through New Mexico Tech; a course on Interferometry in Radio Astronomy; and NSF-supported Research Experiences for Teachers, in which K-12 teachers conduct hands-on research alongside professional astronomers and engineers.

For higher education students, the telescope offers the opportunity to study and train with professional mentors--through NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates, graduate student internships and research assistantships, co-op programs, and online courses.

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  • photo of Very Large Array
Image courtesy of NRAO/AUI

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