Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Very Large Array

The Very Large Array is a multiple aperture radio telescope. That is, it is made up of 27 separate dishes that can be configured over a 22 mile radius to act as one huge radio telescope. Special carriers on railroad tracks allow the dishes to be arranged into different configurations. The VLA has been used to study such phenomena as ice on the surface of Mercury and cosmic jets of material expelled from distant galaxies. It's also showed up in popular culture, as in the final scenes of Contact. BTW, that's a really horrible movie, but the book is outstanding. If you read the book you learn about graduate school in the sciences, how research funding works, how radio antennae study distant galaxies, how we can encode and decode messages and international relations in the sciences. If you watch the movie you get to see Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey hook up.

BTW, David Wegmuller even built a wprking mechanism to move his VLA dish, above. Now he just needs to build 26 more of these and spread them out over a gymnasium floor.

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