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The Very Large Array

The Very Large Array (VLA) is a radio astronomy observatory located on the Plains of San Augustin in New Mexico, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, fifty miles (80 kilometers) west of Socorro. U.S. Route 60 passes through the complex. The VLA stands at an elevation of 6,970 feet (2,124 meters) above sea level. It is a component of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).


It has 27 radio antennas arranged in a Y configuration with nine antennas on each arm. Each antenna is 82 feet (25 meters) in diameter. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 22 miles (36 kilometers) across, with the sensitivity of a dish 422 feet (130 meters) in diameter.


The VLA can cover frequencies between 0.073 and 50 GHz, and wavelengths between 400 and 0.7 centimeters. It can receive the following bands:


        4 Band (0.073-0.0745 GHz frequencies, 400 cm wavelength)

        P Band (0.30-0.34 GHz frequencies, 90 cm wavelength)

        L Band (1.34-1.73 GHz frequencies, 20 cm wavelength)

        C Band (4.5-5.0 GHz frequencies, 6 cm wavelength)

        X Band (8.0-8.8 GHz frequencies, 3.6 cm wavelength)

        U Band (14.4-15.4 GHz frequencies, 2 cm wavelength)

        K Band (22-24 GHz frequencies, 1.3 cm wavelength)

        Q Band (40-50 GHz frequencies, 0.7 cm wavelength)


The total cost of the VLA was $78,578,000 (in 1972 dollars), roughly $1 per taxpayer at the time. Unlike most publicly-funded projects, it was completed almost one year early, and within the allotted budget.


On the web: NRAO Very Large ArrayOfficial website


On the San Augustin Plain, New Mexico



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Taken on June 30, 2010