What’s in a name? A rose by any other name is just as sweet, and a telescope by any other name is just as grand. An upgraded telescope may look much the same on the outside but be ten times as powerful, no matter what you decide to call it.
A few months ago, the Very Large Array officially became the Expanded Very Large Array with the release of new science data from its revamped systems.
Though the iconic Y-shaped array in New Mexico looks much the same as it did in the movie “Contact,” new receivers, electronics, and computers bring the telescope out of the 1970s and up to modern standards of astronomical data collection.
The EVLA can see farther and deeper than ever before, so the National Radio Astronomy Observatory wants to celebrate with a new name for the telescope. They have invited radio astronomy enthusiasts of all stripes to suggest a new name for the array. Do you have some excellent acronym building skills that you want to try out? Maybe you can come up with a more creative name?
Submissions are open until December 1st, and the new name will be announced at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas, in January.
I have to admit, as a young radio astronomer, I have mixed feelings about this initiative. The naming contest is a great way to celebrate the new capabilities while engaging fans of the VLA all over the world. However, such an iconic telescope can’t just be renamed, can it? For over 30 years, everyone in the field knows what you mean when you say VLA. It’s not so much of a stretch to add a prefix, so to say ‘EVLA’ has become comfortable fairly quickly.
However, I find it hard to see astronomers calling it anything new. Maybe we’re just old-fashioned, but the name is pretty descriptive already. It’s an array. It is large. It is very large, in fact. And recently, it has been expanded. What more do you need?
Don’t be discouraged by my misgivings. I did already suggest a name. It is simple, modern, and relevant: iJansky. It seems only fair that astronomers, many of whom love their Macs quite fiercely, would want to pay homage to Steve Jobs who recently passed away.
Add to that Karl Jansky, the man who first discovered radio waves from space. He’s so iconic, the unit of flux (brightness) we use in radio astronomy is named after him. I can see it now, Ellie Arroway listening for the faint sounds of ET through her stylish white earbuds…
Go ahead, weigh in with your own, probably much better, idea. Or, tell the NRAO that you like your EVLA just the way it is! By any name, it is sure to advance our understanding of invisible universe.
All opinions are my own and have no bearing whatsoever on the lovely observatory for which I work. In case you didn’t know that already. Pictures from Summer 2005 as several of the antennas were being transitioned to the new system.