Santa Fe RV Rally
We have had an enjoyable slow paced fall. In early September we attended a Family Motor Coach Association – amateur radio rally in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was an enjoyable four days with eleven couples, a few we had met before and others for the first time.
It was fun to see all the RVs with their antennas in the campground.
Santa Fe is a pretty little capital city. This was our third visit to the area.
Albuquerque and Hamfest
Next up was a month in Albuquerque. We spent the time getting some medical appointments taken care of and working on travel plans for the rest of 2019 and 2020.
While we were here the Albuquerque amateur radio group had a three day Hamfest which we attended. I studied hard and was able to pass a test to update my amateur radio license from Technician to General operator class. Bill already has an Extra license, the highest level available.
Leaving Albuquerque we traveled south to Socorro, New Mexico for a four night stay. Our main reason for stopping here was to visit the nearby Trinity Site. The site is only open twice a year, the first Saturday in April and October.
We have wanted to visit this historic site for several years and this is the first time we have been in New Mexico at the right time. They only open the site twice a year because the site is located on the United States Army White Sands Missile Range where they often conduct missile tests. White Sands Missile Range is one of the most sophisticated test facilities in the world.
Since the site is only open twice a year, it can attract quite a few visitors. I had read that the site opens at 8:00 A.M. but that cars start lining up to get in as early as 6:30 A.M. Since we had an hour drive we left at 5:45 in darkness and heavy fog. It was so foggy we could hardly see to drive. But even with the fog we arrived at 7:00 and there were about 25 cars in line in front of us. Instead of 8:00 they didn’t open the gate until 8:30 for reasons unknown. We had to pass through security and show our driver’s licenses and confirm we had no weapons or firearms.
The Trinity Site is where the first atomic bomb was tested early in the morning of July 16, 1945. The 51,500 acre area where the 19 kiloton explosion occurred was designated a national historic landmark in 1975. Several potential sites in California, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado were considered but this site was ultimately selected because it was already controlled by the government. It was part of the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range which had been established in 1942. The area was secluded which provided secrecy and safety and was also close to Los Alamos where the atomic bomb was designed and built.
The Trinity Site area where the bomb was placed and exploded is called “Ground Zero”. It is reached by walking a third of a mile from the parking lot.
An obelisk made of lava stone marks the actual spot.
They had a replica of Fat Man, the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. This is the type of bomb tested at the Trinity Site.
We also took a bus from the parking lot to Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House.
This is where the plutonium core to the bomb, about the size of a briefcase, was assembled.
I was interested in the radiation levels at the Trinity Site. They say the radiation levels are very low with the maximum levels about ten times greater than the region’s natural background radiation. Many places on earth are naturally more radioactive than the Trinity Site. A one hour visit to the site will result in a whole body exposure of one half to one millirem. To put this in perspective, Americans receive an average of 620 millirem every year from natural and medical sources. A sequence of pictures taken that day were on display.
As we were leaving the Trinity Site we passed protesters from New Mexico. They claim families in the area were affected by the testing in 1945 and never received any restitution. We were told the protesters gather every year.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory – Very Large Array
After stopping home for lunch we decided to make a full day of sightseeing and drove up to see the Very Large Array.
They were having free admission since it was the first Saturday in October. The Very Large Array is one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories. It features 27 radio antennas in a Y shaped configuration. Each antenna is 82 feet in diameter and weighs 230 tons. Bill took a 50 minute guided tour of the facility and really enjoyed learning about these radio antennas.
The individual signals are merged to one picture and then colored to add perspective. Here is an example of one picture made from radio wave emissions from outer space.
Here is what radio waves are transmitted when pointed at Saturn.
The Next Generation Very Large Array is underway and will start construction of two hundred plus radio antennas to improve the sensitivity ten times.
We have just a couple more stops in New Mexico.