Radio telescope system consisting of 27 parabolic dishes.
The most powerful radio telescope in the world, it has been operated on the plains of San Agustin near Socorro, N.M., U.S., by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory since 1980. Each dish is 82 ft (25 m) in diameter and can be moved independently by transporter along rails laid out in an enormous Y pattern whose arms are about 13 mi (21 km) long. The radio signals received by the dishes are integrated by computer, so the entire array acts as a single radio antenna (an interferometer). The VLA, which has a maximum angular resolution better than a tenth of an arc second, has been responsible for producing many of the most detailed radio images of quasar s; galaxies ; supernova s; and the Milky Way Galaxy 's nucleus.