If you've ever watched the movies Contact, Independence Day, Armageddon and Transformers: Dark of the Moon then you've probably seen the famous Very Large Array (VLA), a bank of radio telescopes in New Mexico. The array has undergone an upgrade of its electronics since 2001 and now it needs a new name.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) has announced that is now accepting ideas from the public and fellow scientists in regards to what they should name the Very Large Array of New Mexico.
The expansion of the telescope came after more than a decade of upgrades and officials say they have replaced the Very Large Array's 1970s electronics with state-of-the-art equipment.
A new name should reflect its new capabilities, they say. When the array is not appearing in films, it has been used for more than 3o years to acquire details of far galaxies, supernovas and black holes. This includes a study of naturally occurring radio emission from stars, galaxies, quasars and other astronomical objects.
The updated system should be 10 times more sensitive, according to the BBC.
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, NRAO director Fred Lo told the BBC.
Lo said improvements have increased the array's technical capabilities by factors of as much as 8,000.
We want a name that reflects this dramatically new status, he added. The new name should clearly reflect the VLA's leading role in the future of astronomy, while honouring its multitude of past achievements.
Submit your entries to namethearray.org. But do it soon as the contest is open until Dec. 1. The winner will be announced at the American Astronomical Society conference in January.