Monday, March 29, 2010
The truth is out there... (27,28-Mar-2010)
I arrived in New Mexico Friday evening and the weather was great! The skies started clearing and the landscape was arid with sparse vegetation. It was beautiful:
The next day, I went to the railyard the check out their freight line. Growing up, our Christmas train set was always a "Santa Fe" model and ever since then, I've been fascinated with the beauty of southwestern freight trains...
Next on the agenda was the VLA "Very Large Array" of satellite dishes 50 miles west of Socorro. This place is 3.5 hours south of Santa Fe and took the entire rest of the day. Here is an image of the drive so that you can get a sense of the remoteness:
It was so worth it:
Here is a description which does a better job of explaining the VLA than I can:
I went on a self-guided walking tour outside and found this sign kinda funny:
Well, it's funny now knowing that I didn't encounter any snakes on the tour ;)
I was able to take some great photos on the tour:
The 27 satellite dishes are set-up in a "Y" formation on top of these railroad ties:
This enables them to move the dishes around so they could be close-together or really far apart. This area in the desert is so large and remote that the dishes at their farthest expansion are the size of Washington, D.C. I can't recall the specifics, but having multiple satellite dishes arranged closely as in the VLA mimics what a much larger satellite dish can do (collect data on larger objects, farther away) and is much less expensive and more practical.
I met a group of radio astronomers from Stanford here. They are trying to save a couple of satellite dishes that Stanford is looking to get rid of and bring them to the VLA here in New Mexico. They were very kind, informative and took this photo for me:
Do I look cold? It was very cold on this day!
If you've seen the movie Contact starring Jodie Foster, part of that movie was filmed here:
However, the VLA also noted the many technical inaccuracies in the film. The famous scene where Jodie Foster's character first makes "contact" while listening on the headphones is the most telling as radio-astronomers do not "listen" to anything; all of their data is visual. I do still love that movie though!
On the ride back I was able to take this photo of downtown Albuquerque, NM. I didn't spend any time there, but would love to experience it someday:
After a long day at the VLA, I arrived back in Santa Fe in the evening. I decided to head to historic downtown Santa Fe for some dinner and took these shots:
I had a great meal of steak fajitas at a local spot :) This town is beautiful and the architecture is breathtaking. I liked it so much that I went downtown the next morning as well. Not knowing parking was free on Sundays, I accidentally gave the city of Santa Fe a little donation to their meters, woops:
This old church was quite beautiful. I completely forgot it was Palm Sunday and decided to attend mass. The inside of the church was very pretty too, but I didn't want to interrupt mass with photos:
After having some peach crepes at a local French bakery, I was on the road to Sedona, AZ (and yes the crepes were delicious!)
I was able to capture this desert freight train moving across the desert as I drove westward. I love desert trains:
Stay tuned for some great Sedona adventures coming soon!