The Very Large Array has allowed enormous advances in almost all areas of radio astrophysics. Since its dedication almost fifteen years ago, it has been used by more astronomers, and has produced more scientific papers, than any other radio telescope.
Although observing time remains in great demand (the VLA is used by over 600 researchers from over 150 institutions every year) and the VLA's scientific output is still prodigious, key parts of the array still contain the technology of the 1970's. Major improvements in receivers, in the correlator and in broadband signal transmission are needed and are now possible at only moderate cost.
It has been clear for some time that the VLA's impact on astrophysics can be dramatically increased by upgrading or replacing the receivers, data transmission system, and correlator; by improving its frequency coverage; by improving its ability to image large regions of low surface brightness and wide fields of view with a super-compact configuration; and by increasing its angular resolution by adding antennas between the VLA and the VLBA. Some scientific rewards of enhancing the VLA were described to the Bahcall Committee in 1991; their report recommended extending the VLA as a ``moderate''-scale new program. More recently, the NRAO has included a comprehensive VLA upgrade in its Long Range Plan for the National Science Foundation.
In January 1995, the NRAO hosted a workshop to discuss the scientific program of an enhanced VLA. This document is based on the discussions of six working groups during and after this meeting, which was attended by about 60 scientists and engineers from the NRAO and VLA user institutes. It illustrates-but likely does not exhaust-the rich astronomical opportunities offered by an enhanced VLA. It outlines capabilities that could transform research in areas ranging from the nearby Solar System to the furthest reaches of the Universe. It also aims to identify technical issues that now need detailed design studies.
We thank all the workshop participants for their input, and especially the chairs of the working groups for their ongoing help with assembling this report.
We ask all potential users of the enhanced array for feedback both on the scientific programs and on the relative priorities of different enhancements described in this VLA Development Plan. Such feedback will be an essential part of making the VLA again a state-of-the-art instrument, with new and more ambitious scientific goals. E-mail on these topics will be welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Progress on the VLA Development Plan will be reported in the NRAO
Newsletter, in a memo series, and on the World-Wide-Web
at List of Participants
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