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Very Long Baseline Array

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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

Since its dedication in 1993, the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) has produced a wide range of radio astronomy results and images of extraordinary detail. The VLBA consists of 10 telescopes, each with a 25-meter dish, spaced across the country from Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. The 10 antennas span more than 5,000 miles, working together to provide astronomers with the sharpest vision of any telescope on Earth or in space--with more than 50 times the resolution of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.  The VLBA can detect fine details equivalent to being able to read a newspaper in Los Angeles while standing in New York.

The VLBA has made landmark measurements of the distances to objects within our galaxy and has refined the astronomical yardstick used to measure the entire universe. Scientific research performed with the VLBA has revealed important new knowledge about magnetic fields, stellar winds, the motions of stars and galaxies, the jets of material emitted by black holes, the connections between black holes, and orbiting accretion disks.

The VLBA antennas are located in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and the Virgin Islands. The array is 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 telescopes of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory offer numerous opportunities for hands-on education and training at its telescope facilities.  The observatory conducts formal education and training programs for K-12 teachers and undergraduate college faculty, in addition to programs for students. These include 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 telescopes in the observatory offer 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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  • locations of VLBA telescopes
VLBA site locations
Image courtesy of NRAO/AUI