|The Very Large Array (VLA) is one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories. The VLA consists of 27 antennas arranged in a huge "Y" pattern up to 36 km (22 miles) across -- roughly one and a half times the size of Washington, DC.|
The VLA, located in New Mexico, is an interferometer; this means that it operates by multiplying the data from each pair of telescopes together to form interference patterns. The structure of those interference patterns, and how they change with time as the earth rotates, reflect the structure of radio sources in the sky.
What do Radio Waves show us?
The above image shows the Carbon Monoxide (CO) gases in our Milky Way galaxy.
Many astronomical objects emit radio waves, but that fact wasn't discovered until 1932. Since then, astronomers have developed sophisticated systems that allow them to make pictures from the radio waves emitted by astronomical objects.
|Radio telescopes look toward the heavens at planets and comets, giant clouds of gas and dust, and stars and galaxies. By studying the radio waves originating from these sources, astronomers can learn about their composition, structure, and motion. Radio astronomy has the advantage that sunlight, clouds, and rain do not affect observations.||