In fact, do you fancy naming a whole load of radio telescopes? You do only get to dish out (unintentional pun there) a single name though.
The Very Large Array of radio telescopes in New Mexico, US, has been undergoing some changes over the last decade. Having been built back in the 1970s the array hasn’t been updated until now, and apparently has increased its technical capabilities by 8,000; I’ll be honest, I have no idea what that exactly means but if its good for the Very Large Array, its good for me too. In aid of the projects completion, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) wants you lot to give the site a bloody good name.
You can name the array practically whatever you want. NRAO give you a suggestion of a ‘free-form’ name or a word or phrase to go ahead of the VLA acronym, although they would like something that reflects the status of the VLA. The competition is open until 23.59 EST December 1st 2011, and the name will be announced on 10th January at the NRAO Town Hall during a American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas – which is great if you think you’ll be able to get there, or even hack the more than likely dull technical talk.
So why is this VLA of radio telescopes so damn important? It’s been featured in many a hollywood blockbuster, like Armageddon, and Independence day, and more recently Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Terminator Salvation, although I wont blame you if you never saw either of those films. Also the VLA has provided some valuable information on the Solar System and the universe.
There are already some pretty dry names up on the internet, ‘Improved Very Large Array’, ‘HERO – Highly Expanded Radio Observatory’ and ‘SCOUT – Socorro County Observatory Universal Telescope’. As you can see these are some damn awful names, I think you can all do better, maybe suggest things that reflect its Hollywood background? How about Jeff Goldblum’s Extraterrestrial Finding Device, or John Connor Takes Down Skynet? They aren’t great, but you get the idea, you can submit your ideas over on the NRAO website.