I bet you read that title and now you’re asking yourself “What is the VLA?” and “Why did Flat Eliza go there?” Well, THIS was the big surprise Annie promised me four days ago and it was the best surprise ever!!
The VLA is a big, BIG set of radio telescopes that use sound to explore the universe! There are 27 telescopes (and one spare) that work together to make one big telescope that can be either 1 mile wide or 13 miles wide. It depends on how far apart the dishes are from each other. Here’s a picture of the telescopes all bunched up together, and they are a mile wide telescope like this.
Each of those telescope dishes is 82 feet wide and weighs 230 tons (that’s 460,000 pounds!). And they are famous too, they’ve even been in movies like Contact and Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon!
They have one telescope where you can walk right up to it, so I did! And then Annie took my picture. I really love these telescopes, they are so cool.
The VLA has a walking tour and I liked this stop the best. This is one dish and there is another one about 40 feet away. I stood at one and Annie stood at the other one. When she whispered into that little rod sticking out of the middle of the dish, it sounded like she was standing right beside me! That’s how antennas work, they make the sounds bigger. And the VLA has huge antennas so it can hear sounds from billions of miles across the universe!
The VLA has been exploring how planets are made, and there was a video of a woman astronomer who is working on this question by studying a binary star system. She even got to climb up into one of the dishes!
Hey, I found something from Wisconsin at the VLA!
We also went on a tour to the control room. These are two of the operators who move the dishes around! What a big job that is! They went to college so they have the skills to do this job and take care of any problems that might happen when the VLA is working. And it works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! So there are 6 operators and they take turns working with the VLA.
After the tour was over, we went to the gift shop and picked out a few things for Eliza. They are in the green bag. I can’t tell you want they are, it’s a secret!!!
On the way out of the VLA visitor center, we signed the guest book. Yes, Flat Eliza is now officially a visitor to the Very Large Array!
Annie took a lot of pictures of the dishes without me in them, silly Annie! But I like this one a lot anyways!