Pictures: Day 14

Day 14 / Thursday, September 10, 2009

I spent the windy and thunderous night in this shed in an RV park close to the array site.

Entering the array site, which was built in the 70's.

Even with all the ex-military vehicles around, this is a non-defense site and is purely a science facility, thus being open to the public.

Taking a self-guided walking tour of the facility.

One of the 27 antennas that the public is allowed to walk up to. The dish is 82 ft (25 meters) in diameter and is fully mobile to point at any direction and to follow a radio source across the sky as the earth rotates. The antennas were constantly moving while I was there.

The primary purpose of these antenna is not to listen to radio sources from space but actually to capture the electromagnetic radiation (also known as light) and produce images of objects that emit radio waves, like the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

The base of the antenna, when unbolted, can be lifted and allows the antenna to be moved to different configurations across the site as all the antenna can act as one big radio antenna depending on what is being observed.

Sculpture depicting the Y-shape of the array site. The antenna are periodically moved back and forth on rails to provide different resolutions. At its widest configuration, the array can simulate a single dish that is 22 miles in diameter.

Detailed view of the underside of a dish, showing its rotating mechanism.

One of the rail transporters that is used to move the antennas around.

At the Antenna Assembly Building, where servicing and construction takes place. This is as close as I'll get to the Shuttle's Vehicle Assembly Building down in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Hoping to see a launch before the program ends.

Looking down the main rail line of the array with all the dishes pointed up.

I had good timing as the antenna were all bunched up closely making for some nice shots instead of being spread apart.

Continuing on south on NM-12 heading to Silver City through the Gila National Forest.

Good thing I decided to stay on pavement as daily afternoon thunderstorms were becoming the norm and New Mexico is famous for its dirt roads that turn into mud when wet.

New Mexico's storms are also known to be fast moving. Heavy rain above, bright sunshine here...

And heavy rain again. Click image for high resolution image of the panorama.

Nice views riding through Gila National Forest.

Wee, fun twisties.

Rainbow over Silver City with rain clouds hovering about.

I wanted to camp one last night before reaching the Mexican border tomorrow and seeing this black mass, I decided to head closer to the border to avoid the rains.

Zero visibility warning, that is during dust storms across the open US 180 heading south to Deming from Silver City.

They really psyche you out with all the warning signs, but with that dark clouds up ahead, it's probably appropriate.

Fast moving rain across the desert.

I was hoping to camp at Rock Hound State Park, south of Deming, at the base of the mountain at the bottom right in this picture. The road is so straight that I could see this mountain almost the whole way from Silver City.

But as I got closer, this cloud had settled in at the top and lightning was striking around the rainbow and the black mass of clouds had followed me all the way south. Just as I checked in to a motel, the skies opened and the deluge ensued with a beautiful lightning storm.

Next: Day 15, Into Mexico

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