The University of New Mexico

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Media Contact: Steve Carr, (505) 277-1821; e-mail: scarr@unm.edu

March 25, 2010

University of New Mexico to Host Long Wavelength Array Ribbon-Cutting Event
Project reaches first major milestone

The Long Wavelength Array (LWA), a major next-generation radio telescope project at the University of New Mexico, will be the site of a ribbon-cutting event to mark its first major milestone. The ribbon cutting will be held at the LWA-1 Site on the Plains of San Agustin near Socorro, N.M. on Thursday, April 1, 2010 beginning at 11 a.m.

At 11:30 a.m., the formal program gets underway with several distinguished guests, including LWA Scientific Director Greg Taylor, and National Radio Astronomy Observatory Assistant Director Robert Dickman, with comments beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Other guests of the LWA Ribbon-Cutting event include representatives of the New Mexico Congressional delegation, which was instrumental in securing more than $10 million in funding to help the support the project in its first four years.  State and local officials, the LWA Executive Committee, the LWA Project team and UNM officials will be on hand. In addition, special guests from the Office of Naval Research and Naval Research Laboratory, the Air Force Research Lab at Kirtland AFB, Los Alamos Research Laboratory, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Virginia Tech, University of Iowa and representatives of UNM will be present.

The LWA is a primary element in a growing relationship between UNM Physics and Astronomy Department and the Air Force Research Laboratory through collaborative projects with the AFRL Space Weather Center of Excellence, which is soon relocating to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. It is also a major component in a relationship between UNM and the NSF National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Recently, LWA researchers completed a major milestone in the project by fielding their first antenna station on the Plains of San Agustin and conducting their first commissioning experiments.  Currently, the project is moving from major design and development to an implementation and initial observations phase.

“We are at a transitional phase right now,” said Lee Rickard, LWA Executive Project Director. “A milestone in development is done. We’re at the point where we’re talking about data, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. We plan on having the first station fully operational by March 2011.”

LWA researchers plan to produce an instrument with imaging power 2-3 orders of magnitude better than current or past capabilities below the broadcast FM bands (i.e., 10 – 88 MHz). By utilizing and taking advantage of New Mexico’s unique environment for radio astronomy, and distributing telescope stations
around much of the state, the LWA will provide high-precision, synoptic views of the ionosphere and solar weather events, and of a panoply of astrophysical phenomena.
LWA Ribbon-Cutting Event – p. 2
When completed, the LWA will be complete with an array of 53 “stations,” each a 100-meter diameter field of approximately 250 antennas that acts as an individual telescope. Linked by data fibers, the stations will be combined to synthesize an instrument about 400 kilometers across. Before reaching that capability, a 16-station array is scheduled that will enable a better understanding of complex imaging through the ionosphere and will provide opportunities for major scientific discovery. This initial effort is expected to take six years, with an investment of $33 million.

Future plans call for the LWA to become a premier international facility for conducting fundamental research in space physics and astrophysics, for educating the next generation of students in the United States. The LWA will be a major element in New Mexico’s leadership role in space physics. The project has already funded several graduate and undergraduate students, helping to create an expert academic user community that can achieve future advances in these fields.

For a map and directions to the event visit: http://www.phys.unm.edu/~lwa/index.html.

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