Skip to Main Content

Very Large Array.

The Very Large Array

Field review by the editors.

Socorro, New Mexico

It's huge, it's spacey, it's free. The Very Large Array has become a destination for people like us who know nothing about astrophysical masers or aperture synthesis interferometry.

We drove out to the remote Very Large Array because it's a sci-fi icon, instantly recognizable eye candy from films such as Contact, Independence Day, and Terminator Salvation. Bon Jovi shot a rock video here.

The pop culture image impression is that the giant antennas in the Very Large Array are part of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). They aren't. Officially the dishes only listen to intergalactic noisemakers such as black holes and pulsars, although if someone from another planet said hello it would probably be picked up here pretty quickly.

Very Large Array.

The Very Large Array is as its name promises. Each of its Y-shaped arms is 13 miles long. Its 27 antennas weigh 230 tons apiece, mounted on railroad tracks so they can slide around to boost their ability to eavesdrop. It can be seen from space, and from many miles away as you approach on US Highway 60.

For something so hi-tech, the Very Large Array is surprisingly accessible. You can visit every day until sunset, walking from the small Visitor Center along a self-guided tour trail that takes you to the base of the second dish. Signs warn visitors to watch for snakes (we saw only jackrabbits).

Very Large Array.

There's a "whisper gallery" made from two satellite dishes to demonstrate how they gather and amplify faint sound waves. The scrubby, flat plateau -- chosen for the VLA because it's so empty -- is quiet except for the steady clunk-clunk-clunk of the antenna drive motors as they track the big dishes across the sky.

The only restriction at the Very Large Array (aside from the snakes) is that you can't talk on the phone (or do selfie vlogs) while visiting. It's too noisy.

The Very Large Array

Old Hwy 60, Socorro, NM
I-25 exits 147 or 150 for Socorro, then west on US Hwy 60 about 47 miles. On the south side of the highway. Follow the signs from Hwy 60; it's another few miles before you get to the Visitor Center.
Free self-guided visits daily. $6 guided tours on alternating Saturdays. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Chunk of Chunk of "Jumbo" From First A-Bomb Blast, Socorro, NM - 42 mi.
Recycled Parts Flying SaucerRecycled Parts Flying Saucer, Socorro, NM - 42 mi.
Ghost Town Pioneer Store MuseumGhost Town Pioneer Store Museum, Chloride, NM - 51 mi.
In the region:
The Lightning Field, Quemado, NM - 42 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in New Mexico

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in New Mexico.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Create and Save Your Own Crazy Road Trip! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

New Mexico Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

National Ballpark Museum, Denver, Colorado (Jul 15-21, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings