NRAO signs collaborative agreement with UNAM to develop next-generation Very Large Array

The US National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing their collaboration on the Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA), a new radio observatory which is currently in design and development at NRAO.

The signing ceremony was attended by NRAO Director Tony Beasley and UNAM Rector Enrique Graue Wiechers along with representatives from AUI, NSF and the Mexican Federal Government on November 4, 2022 in Mexico City.

“This new MoU between NRAO and UNAM strengthens our existing partnership and lays the foundation for an important collaboration on ngVLA, including future site selection for the new array in Mexico,” said Beasley. “We look forward to building the future of radio astronomy together with UNAM and our other partners.”

The ngVLA is an upcoming array of 263 radio antennas distributed across North America that, once approved and constructed, will address fundamental questions in all major areas of astrophysics, including exoplanets, galaxy formation and black hole evolution.

“International partnerships are crucial for building larger and more complex plants. It’s exciting to see scientists from UNAM and NRAO working together on the ngVLA,” said Debra Fischer, NSF’s director of astronomical sciences. “The best scientific and engineering talent in both countries are attracted to observatories like ngVLA, where new discoveries could revolutionize our understanding of the Universe.”

The new MOU builds on previous collaborations between NRAO and UNAM for the design and development of the ngVLA. In August, NRAO announced the appointment of Alfonso Trejo-Cruz, an astronomer with UNAM, to lead site selection and development of ngVLA sites in northern Mexico.

As part of the MOU, UNAM will bring $1 million to the collaboration over four years to fund site characterization, imaging and configuration, geolocation, etc.

NSF previously awarded NRAO $23 million for design and development work on a prototype antenna in 2021, a process that is nearing completion. Once approved, construction of the ngVLA could begin as early as 2026, with expected first scientific observations from 2029 and full scientific operations by 2035.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a National Science Foundation facility operated by Associated Universities, Inc. under a collaborative agreement.

About the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

UNAM is the largest university in Latin America and conducts education, research and innovation in all disciplines. UNAM has campuses and research stations in most states of Mexico and is home to numerous services and national institutions that promote social mobility and contribute to the development of Mexico for the future.

Media contact:

Amy C Oliver, FRAS
Public Information and News Manager, NRAO
Public Relations Officer, ngVLA
[email protected]