Visit the VLA
Visit the VLA daily from 8:30am until sunset for a self-guided walking tour that takes you to a working antenna on the array. Enjoy our Gift Shop daily from 9:00am until 4:00pm. Guided Tours are offered the "First Saturday of each month".
October 1 features our "Open House" guided tours hosted by NRAO Staff. Tours begin on the half hour at 11:00AM with the last tour at 5:00PM. "Open House" October 1, 2016 is FREE Admission! NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED!
Admission is $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for Seniors (65+), ages 17 and under are free. Socorro & Catron County Resident Adult bringing out-of-town paying guest is free.
On the first Saturday of each month, enjoy "First Saturday Guided Tours" at 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00. No reservations are required, simply show up at the VLA Visitor Center 30 minutes before the desired tour time.
Weather advisory: At 7,000 feet above sea level, weather conditions at the VLA are often different than at lower altitudes. Snow can sometimes force us to close, even on days when there is no snow at lower altitudes; check this web page or call 575-835-7410 to confirm that we're open on the day you plan to visit.
Self guided tours are available daily from 8:30am until sunset. Scroll down this page for more information.
The Very Large Array Radio Telescope facility is a two hour drive from Albuquerque, 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. The Visitor Center features an award-winning film narrated by Jodie Foster, plus exhibits describing radio astronomy and the VLA telescope. A self-guided walking tour path features large, informative signs and takes you to the base of one of the giant dish antennas. Leashed pets are welcome along the walking tour paths. A souvenir walking tour map is available.
Site Hours: Daily, 8:30 am through Sunset.
Gift Shop: Daily 9:00am to 4:00pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.
VLA site GPS Coordinates: 34 04'43.497N 107 37'05.819W
First Saturday Tours
The VLA hosts 45 minute guided tours on the first Saturday of each month at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. No reservations are required, simply show up at the VLA Visitor Center 15 or so minutes before the desired tour time.
These tours last 45 minutes and take visitors 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. June 20 - August 15, 2015 the VLA will host Summer Student lead guided tours every Saturday at 11:00 & 1:00! No reservations required.
First Saturday Tours in April and October are our Open House Events. These guided tours beginning at 11:00 a.m. with the last tour beginning at 4:00 p.m. are free.
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 on the campus of NM Tech in Socorro.
What You Will See
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 (download Radio Sundial brochure PDF), 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.
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 (otherwise it interferes with our observing).
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:
Photography and Filming
As noted above, visitors to the VLA may photograph what they see from the designated self-guided walking tour. However, any filming or photography done by a commercial or professional entity, or that is done by anyone, amateur or professional, from areas not authorized for general-public tourists or outside the hours authorized for general-public tourists is considered to be "commercial." Such photography must be approved in advance, and requires completing an application process, coordinating with NRAO staff, and payment of fees. Full information on commercial photography and filming, along with the required application form, is provided below.
- Commercial Photography and Filming Rules (PDF)
- Application for Commercial Filming or Photography (PDF)