Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Tuesday, March 17 – We enjoyed our over-night stay in Datil, New Mexico, although it got a little colder than what we were use to in Mesa, AZ. Low temperature last night was 39*....Brrrrrrr!

With the time change (Arizona doesn't recognize daylight savings time, so we lost an hour when we moved into New Mexico.), we were up early and ready to hit the road soon after daylight. The campground is located behind a restaurant so we took the time to enjoy breakfast before we left. Nothing like a good breakfast!

Twenty miles down the road from Datil is the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array (VLA). We've had this on our “bucket list” for over five years. We finally managed to work it into our schedule.


Why did they choose Roswell, NM, for the VLA site? Because it is high, flat and far from any city. This area permits proper placement and easy movement of the antennas. The mountains ringing the plains provide protection from man-made electrical interference. Additionally, the height above sea level minimizes the blurring effect of the atmosphere on radio images.


Please click on the picture for easier reading. Lots of good info here.

The VLA is used to make images of astronomical objects with a level of detail comparable with photographs made by the world's largest optical telescopes. The VLA receives the naturally occurring radio waves from planets, stars, and galaxies throughout the universe.

The dishes are arranged in a huge “Y” formation that varies from 13 miles to a smaller configuration of less than a mile. They are movable via railroad tracks to vary the size.  Even though they are 28 separate dishes, they are focused and receive input as if they were one huge dish.


We were fortunate to see the dishes moving. They moved from a shot straight up to just above the horizon. Pretty neat!  We were standing right under one of the dishes as it moved.

Beginning position.

Ending position.

The tour is a self-guided tour. We began in the Visitor's Center. We watch a movie about the installation, and then walked around to view the displays. We picked up the printed guide that describes the different stops on the tour. The walk around the facility is about a half mile on gravel pathways. It is really quite interesting.

The size of each dish is 82 feet. Two school buses could park end-to-end in one.DSC01515

There is a $6 per person fee ($5 for seniors), but the gift store was closed, and there was no one in the Visitor's Center to collect the fee. We were pretty much on our own, so we enjoyed the tour for free. We completed the tour in about an hour but would have meandered a little slower but it was pretty breezy and cold. Plan for two hours, and you should be good to go!

The sound we heard when the antenna repositioned was the drive
motors moving the 100-ton dish.

After our visit to the VLA, we continued across New Mexico to Roswell, NM. We are staying at the Roswell Elks Lodge. $15 got us an electric and water site with gravel pads and streets. They are all fairly long pull-thrus. It is pretty empty, so we have an entire row to ourselves. There are 12 sites and only three are being used.

Roswell Elks

Roswell Elks

Looking right.
Roswell Elks

Looking left.
Roswell Elks

We've visited Roswell, NM, in the past. That means we stopped downtown to see the touristy “man from outer space” stores. Now if we can just survive the night without being abducted by Martians!

Stop back and check our progress across the “Great State of Texas” as long as the Martians leave us alone tonight!

Thanks to everyone who left a comment or emailed Marsha about her back. The long drives are hard on her back, but she says she is feeling less spams each day. Hopefully, she will feel much better by the time we hit Houston and will be able to avoid a doctor’s appointment.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see y’all back real soon. Have a great day!