NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Socorro is home to something pretty cool in the realm of space, the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. Commonly referred to as the VLA, it is a radio astronomy telescope facility.

The facility has 27 massive dishes, and each one is 82 feet in diameter. The way they are aligned is important to their function; the Y-shaped formation allows the dishes to act like one incredibly large telescope. The VLA stretches about 22 miles across.

The project was a long time in the making, as scientists actually started to think about constructing a VLA-type facility back in the 1960s. However, it was not until 1972 that Congress approved funding for the VLA; the facility was completed in 1980.

Researchers use the VLA to understand a variety of cosmic phenomena, including planets, stars, gas and dust clouds, galaxies, pulsars, and black holes.