VLA-Very Large Array
The Very Large Array (VLA) is a large radio astronomy obseratory set in the middle of New Mexico's desert. It consists of 27 antennas placed in a Y configuration set along rail tracks which allows them to be relocated to different positions as they make space observations. Much of the movie "Contact" with Jodie Foster was filmed at the VLA.
Southwest of Albuquerque near Socorro, NM
The kids were not sure what to expect when we mentioned we would be stopping at the Very Large Array. This was the last stop on a day trip loop we took from Albuquerque that also included our Pie Town Sidetrack and our La Ventana Natural Arch Sidetrack. As you are driving through the high desert of New Mexico, the VLA appears off in the distance and definitely looks very science fiction-like. Once the kids noticed it, they said, "whoa". They were intrigued. That was a good sign!
We pulled into the visitor center and went inside. There is no fee to walk thru the self guided center filled with lots of great information on the VLA and space science. There is a small theater where we watched a 20 minute film, narrated by Jodie Foster, which held the kids' interest. It explains some complex astronomical concepts in a way that was somewhat easy to understand. The film not only touches on astronomy but also on the VLA's role in research.
We learned later that you can also drive over to the Antenna Assembly Building and take a tour to view any antennas under maintenance. Photography is allowed. They do ask that you keep cell phones turned off/airplane mode as they will interfere with antenna observations. There are guided tours and Open Houses periodically. Refer to the website for more information.