Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just Dishy

Got to do a fairly cool road trip at work today. (Tiring, though. Working until midnight and then hitting the road at 9:00 AM is not exactly an ideal schedule, especially when you've been having a sleep deprived week already.) We drove out to Pie Town, NM (which is about as close to Middle of Nowhere, American West as one might ever wish to get) to visit the VLBA's nearest radio telescope site. I'd actually been out there a couple of times before, many years ago, but my job didn't involve interacting with the antennas at all then, so it was a worthwhile exercise to do it again now that I can put names and functions to the various components. It really doesn't hurt to have an idea of the physical locations of the stuff you have to get people to go out and fix. Plus, crawling around on the antenna is always fun. And, look, I took some pictures!

Here's me sitting on the dish, in closeup:

And in a longer shot:

This one is looking up at the dish:

And because you really ought to have a full-length view of the thing and I didn't get one today, here's one taken the last time I was there, on a much grayer day:

Yay, astronomy!


  1. That is so awesome.

    Man, I hope I still have that photo you took of me at the VLBA (or was it the VLA?) in 2000.

  2. It gets me that you have to wear a hard hat when you're on top of something like that. If you were to fall off (not like I'm wishing that on you, of course), so would the hat. Sometimes, safety rules don't make sense.

    By the way, kudos on climbing up and on that thing. I don't think I could do it. Did you have a ladder or bucket truck to get you up the side, or is there a way in through the middle?

  3. It's official.
    Your job is way cooler than mine...

  4. Peter: That was the VLA. The VLA is the array of antennas about 50 miles west of here. The VLBA is a network of ten antennas scattered all across the US.

    And I should still have that picture. I was even keeping an organized photo album back then and everything. Do you want me to look for it for you?

    Captain C: Actually, that hard hat sits snug enough that it might well just stay on all the way down, but that's not exactly what it's for. And, believe me, it does make sense! If nothing else, I hit the back of my head three times on the way up, climbing around among metal struts in cramped spaces.

    There is, indeed, a way through the middle. Two of them, actually: one is a door out of a small room that sits in the middle of the dish and contains some important equipment, and one is a hatch that's accessible by ladder from underneath.

    Geo: My job usually just consists of sitting in front of a computer, and if I ever get to see these dishes, it's by webcam. :) Actually getting to make the trip out to one is a rare treat.

  5. Thanks for the Pics. Awesome

  6. You didn't, perchance, take the opportunity to beam out a message to the TARDIS while you were there, saying, "Doctor, I'm here. Come get me. Forget about London and Cardiff, and come to New Mexico"?

  7. Alas, there is no transmitter. So I also couldn't use it to threaten to destroy the universe unless it surrendered to me, either. (Sorry. Classic Who reference there. ;))

  8. You need to take up skateboarding