Very Large Array wants your help with a new name

Well, it never really was the most imaginative name – the Very Large Array. And, now, after a major upgrade, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory is asking for help coming up with a better one.

Over the last ten years, the NRAO has been working to replace 1970s electronics, upgrading the radio telescope’s technical capabilities by 80 times, and says it wants a new name to reflect its new features.

The improvements to the array include a new high-bandwidth data-transmission system, along with a superfast central supercomputer.

It’s more than ten times more sensitive to faint radio emissions from distant astronomical objects than the original system, and covers more than three times more radio frequencies.

Indeed, says the NRAO, it would be capable of detecting the radio signal from a cell phone at the distance of Jupiter, a half-billion miles away.

“Though the giant dish antennas, the unique machines that move them across the desert, and the buildings on New Mexico’s Plains of San Agustin may appear much the same, the VLA truly has become a new and different facility. We want a name that reflects this dramatically new status,” says NRAO director Fred Lo.

“The new name should clearly reflect the VLA’s leading role in the future of astronomy, while honoring its multitude of past achievements.”

The competition runs until December 1, and there’s an online entry form here.

The original VLA has been in use since the 1970s. The NRAO says that more than 2,500 scientists from around the world have used it for more than 13,000 observing projects.