The Very Large Array

Excerpt: Originally published in Astronomy Magazine


They stand on the site of an ancient inland sea, scanning the horizon with the same unblinking posture as the stone heads of Easter Island. Within their shadows, cattle graze on high desert scrub, clomping about amidst late July wildflowers. Here and there big-eared jackrabbits stand stone-still, as highly attuned to nature’s whispers as the 230-ton radio telescopes towering over them. This is the home of the Very Large Array.

Located in a region where Loretta Lynn trounces Madonna on the local airwaves, it seems too backwater, too cowboy to host one of Earth’s most sophisticated astronomical radio observatories. And yet the very remoteness evokes the sensation of having time-warped to a futuristic robotic city. The disparity is akin to being served raspberry frappe topped with chicken gravy.

I have to admit it. I like the flavors.