Summerschool 1991 in New Mexico

Flag of USA

In 1991 I attended a summerschool in New Mexico. This was the first time that I crossed the Atlantic. In fact it was the first time that I stepped into an airplane. I took the cheapest flight available (since the observatory did not want to pay) so I got on the well know (at least for Dutch astronomers) TWA flight via JFK and St. Louis to Albuquerque. I was warned that JFK was a nightmare, but it was even worse. It only took me 45 minutes to go through customs. Then I had to carry my suitcase across the street to another building. Went to the check-in desk, but nobody was there. Panic, panic. Stay calm. Go to the information counter. Only 20 people in a single queue. Its OK. My plane leaves in 40 minutes. I get nearer and nearer to the desk, but not fast enough. My plane leaves now in 5 minutes. Ahh, its my turn now. I am on the flight to St. Louis and the check-in desk is empty. Where should I check in. I tell them my flight number and they can not find that number in the computer. So they were as clever as me. My plane leaves in 1 minute. It turns out that the flight has got two flight numbers. Clever. But now I know where to check in. At the other side of the terminal. Fortunately they are kind enough to call them to say that I am coming. So I almost missed my connection. This is not good for your health. Late at night I arrive in Albuquerque. I have to wait here for two hours, because a few others did miss their connection. Then only a trip by car to Socorro (100 km south - in the middle of nowhere) and I arrive at the campus. I've made it.

Image of Fitch Hall at the campus This is Fitch Hall at the campus. The place where I spend two weeks. On the first night I allready locked myself out, because I closed the door while I went to the bathroom. Yes, the key was inside the room. The campus police was helpful in tracking down the person with the spare key.

Image of Socorro A typical view of a typical town in the typical middle of nowhere. How typical. Sure they have a McDonalds. Sure they have a gas station. Fortunately they also have real food and real restaurants. Spicy Mexican food like Tamale and Burretos.

Image of a truck Now that is what I call a truck. Would be nice to hitch a ride with something like that. To bad I have to stay in Socorro.

Image of a radio telescope This is what I came for. The Very Large Array (VLA) at the plains of St. Augustin. The largest Synthesis Radio Telescope in the world (27 dishes). What a view.

Image of a crane The VLA can be set in different configurations. In the smallest setup the maximum baseline is 1.3 km and the largest setup is 27 km. These cranes are needed to move the telescopes to different positions. It takes about one day per telescope to move. They have 2 of these machines.

Image of a thunderstorm at the VLA In this area it is usually very sunny and dry. But in 5 minutes the wheater can change dramatically. Here you see a thunderstorm coming directly towards us. And this happened while we were standing inside the dish of a telescope. 250 tons of metal on a large plane in a thunderstorm. Better find a safer place to hide. Under the dish is a cage of Faraday, that contains the receivers. This must be safe.

I survived the thunderstorm and other trouble. The trip back was easy, except for the fact that the shuttle that would take me back to Albuquerque did not pick me up. After an hour waiting I called the secretary of the campus and she said the shuttle was gone allready. After several phone calls it was decided that I could stay one more night at the campus and another shuttle would pick me up early in the morning. This was the only person in Socorro that had a licence to run the shuttle service so when he heard about my story he did not charge me anything if I gave him the ticket of the illegal shuttle driver. So remember when you go to Socorro, always take the official service called Roadrunner.

This document was last updated on 03/08/01