Wednesday, January 23, 2008

MLK Day at the Very Large Array

The Very Large Array is one of New Mexico's most famous points of interest, since it's one of the world's largest astronomical radio observatories. It's amazing what images they can create from outer space with these enormous radio dishes. You may have seen the VLA as the setting in the movie Contact with Jodie Foster, and probably some other sci-fi movies.

We spent Martin Luther King Day road-tripping down past Socorro and Magdalena, NM (about 1-1/2 hours from home), to check out this place. Neither of us had been there and wanted to see what all the hype was about. Suffice it to say: WHOA.

While most people probably see the VLA as a fun little road trip tourist spot, the place seriously blew our minds. Basically, the scientists (who work 24 hours a day, 362 days a year--not sure which three days they get off. We thought this was kinda funny) capture sound waves from millions or billions of light years away and plot them out as images so they can see things like supernovas and black holes (also known as "dark energy"--don't even get us started on what a trip that is!) and star explosions that happen waaaaay in the past.

It really put things into a new perspective for us. Seeing all of these far off galaxies and other enormous universes that are bigger than ours, understanding the sheer magnitude of the sun, trying to decipher what a black hole means--all made us feel so small and insignificant. Kinda made us feel like our troubles and worries are all for naught. It was hard to imagine that we're the only ones out there...but also kinda cool.

Here are some pics we took.

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