The next Very Large Array could consist of 263 radio telescopes

The next Very Large Array could consist of 263 radio telescopes

The successor to the iconic Very Large Array in operation in New Mexico since 1980 could be a huge group of as many as 263 satellite dishes, scattered across North America, with a particular concentration in the southwestern United States. Scientists believe the new array would provide new scientific capabilities to astronomers around the world. The project was billed as the second most important terrestrial project, with the US Extremely Large Telescope in first place.

The ngVLA will require approval from the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation to receive funding from of Congress. Optimistically, proponents say construction could begin by 2026 with the first scientific observations starting in 2029 and full scientific operations by 2035. It would be a direct result of close collaboration between NRAO and the larger astronomical community in developing the ngVLA occurred in the past five years, said Eric Murphy, NRAO project scientist for ngVLA.

The heart of the new ngVLA should remain at the current VLA site on the San Agustin Plains in New Mexico, with several radio antennas and a signal processing center. Other antennas would be located throughout New Mexico, west Texas, eastern Arizona and northern Mexico. Other antennas will be placed in clusters in Hawaii, Washington, California, Iowa, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico (at the Arecibo Observatory site), US Virgin Islands and Canada.

Operations will be conducted at the VLA site and nearby Socorro, New Mexico, with further scientific operations planned in a metropolitan area yet to be determined.

Scientists claim that the nngVLA would be designed to have sensitivity to detect faint objects and a resolving power more than 10 times greater than the current VLA. Such capabilities could answer fundamental questions in all major areas of astrophysics and would complement the Atacama Large Millimetersubmillimeter Array (ALMA) and other planned tools such as the low-frequency Square Kilometer Array. It will also complement the capabilities of the US-ELT optical telescopes and the James Webb orbiting space telescope, which will operate at infrared wavelengths and which is expected to launch in December 2021.

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