Visit the VLA

The Very Large Array Radio Telescope facility is located 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. The site is open daily from 8:30 am through sunset.  The self guided walking tour paths are marked with large, colorful, informative signs. Pets on leashes are welcomed on site and along the walking tour paths.

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Winter's view of the Antenna Assembly Building from the Self-guided Tour at the Very Large Array.
Site Hours: Daily, 8:30 am through Sunset.
Gift Shop: Daily 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day. If the gift shop is closed during your visit you may shop online.
VLA site GPS Coordinates:
34 04'43.497N  107 37'05.819

First Saturday Tours

The VLA hosts FREE, 30 minute, Guided Tours on the first Saturday of each month at 11:00a.m., 1:00p.m., and 3:00p.m. No reservations required, simply show up at the VLA Visitor Center 15 or so minutes before the desired tour time.

These FREE tours last 30 minutes and take the Visitor to areas behind the scenes at the VLA. Staff and VLA Volunteers are on hand to answer questions.

The First Saturday Tour event culminates in an evening of FREE Guided Night Sky Telescope Viewing at the Etscorn Observatory on the Campus of NM Tech located in Socorro. The night time event begins at dark and lasts two hours, despite weather conditions, no reservations required.

During the summer, our NRAO students provide tours on selected weekends. The tours are free and no reservations are needed.

Open Houses

First Saturday Tours in April and October are our Open House Events. We host free, guided tours beginning at 11:00a.m. with the last tour beginning at 4:00p.m.

These free tours are hosted by NRAO Staff, last about an hour, and take the Visitor through VLA Operations. NRAO Staff are on hand around the VLA Site to answer questions and interact with the public, plus we offer hands-on, family friendly astronomy activities too! Night Sky observing is offered at Etscorn Observatory as described above.

What You Will See

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The Visitor Center is open every day from 8:30 a.m. through sunset. As you enter, a sign will point you toward the theater, a good place to begin your tour. The 20-minute video presentation, produced in 2013 and narrated by Jodie Foster, provides an overview of radio astronomy, interferometry, and the VLA itself.

You will then want to explore our exhibits, to learn more about radio astronomy and the role the Very Large Array and other NRAO telescopes play in current research. A 5-minute silent video will show you how we move antennas.

Near the back door you will find a brochure to guide you on the walking tour that will take you to our Radio Sundial, past our Whisper Dish Gallery, on to our Radio Astronomy Gallery, and finally to the base of one of the 230-ton working antenna on the array!

From there you will head toward the control building to climb up to the observation deck for a view of the array itself and details about the supercomputer processing taking place in the control building.

The walk returns you to the Visitor Center where you are welcome to browse through our gift shop to take home some souvenirs. The gift shop opens almost every day at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 4:00.
If it is closed during your visit you may shop online.

We suggest you make a right-hand turn as you leave the Visitor Center parking lot and head for the tall yellow building, following the signs for the AAB (Antenna Assembly Building) Tour. As you cross the railroad track there is a parking lot on your left. From there you may view our 28th antenna that may be undergoing routine maintenance. You will also (most of the time) get to see one of the transporters that is used to move the antennas.

You are welcome to take photographs of everything you see, but please keep your cell phone turned off or put in in airplane mode (else it interferes with our observing).

Group Tours

For educational groups, we provide guided tours (if available!). We need at least three weeks' notice to arrange a guided tour. To arrange a guided tour for your education group, give our Education and Public Outreach office a call at (575) 835-7243 or fill out the Guided Tour Reservation form:

 

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