The highlight of today's travels was the visit to the VERY LARGE ARRAY TELESCOPE located about 50 miles west of the town of Socorro, N. M. This provided a well needed break in a day of lots of driving through some beautiful country.
The Grand View
We set out early and all of the driving was on U.S. Routes, no freeways. Some of the towns we went through were Roswell, Carrizozo, and Socorro. The towns were small and rural, and the countryside was range land.
The Very Large Array Telescope is a radio astronomy observatory which is located on the Plains of San Agustin, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, N.M. It is nestled in a valley where there are very few dwellings, and rimmed by low mountains.
ONE ARM OF THE ARRAY
A SINGLE ANTENNA
The radio telescope is comprised of 27 independent antennae, each of which has a dish diameter of 25 meters (82 feet) and weighs 230 tons. The antennae are distributed along the three arms of a track, shaped in a wye (or Y)-configuration. The array acts as a single antenna with a variable diameter.
The VLA is a multi-purpose instrument designed to allow investigations of many astronomical objects, including radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, supernova remnants, gamma ray bursts, radio-emitting stars, the sun and planets, astrophysical masers, black holes, and the hydrogen gas that constitutes a large portion of the Milky Way Galaxy as well as galaxies beyond.
It is not, despite depictions in popular culture such as the movie "Contact", used to assist in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
And the Rains Came
We enjoyed walking out to one of the antenna and observing it moving on its axis. While we were wandering about, a thunderstorm approached and we decided to get into our car and observe it safely. There was no lightning near.
We had only covered about half of the distance of the day's travel so it was on to the East, and a return to Arizona through Springerville and onto Show Low. This area of Arizona is on the edge of the area called the Mogollan Rim. At Show Low we headed North to connect with I-40 and go west to Winslow.
We enjoyed a delightful evening, though short, at the La Posada Hotel. The original hotel was designed by Mary Coulter for Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad. It is located right next to the train tracks so there is a regular passage of trains, but they move very slowly and do not blow their whistles. The effect is very relaxing. We got there about 30 minutes before our dinner reservation. This is one of our favorite places to stay. The dinner was delightful, and then it was pleasant sitting outside and enjoying a little dessert and wine with our companions and reflect on our recent adventures. Tomorrow we split off and head on our own to a visit to the North Rim, Grand Canyon.