Home - Admission & Financial Aid - Apply - Scholars Programs - Benton Scholars - Benton Scholars News
Benton Scholars News


TBS in the Southwest: Trinity Test Site and Very Large Array

By bkelsey on March 17, 2016

If I told you where we spent our morning today, I might have to kill you.

We visited the White Sands Missile Range, specifically the site of the Trinity Test. We were granted special access to the site; usually tours are only given once or twice a year on specific dates, with as many as 5000 people attending. After a photography-prohibited ride, we arrived at a circular fenced-off area. A lone black obsidian pillar towers out of the sun-parched sand as a testament to the significance of the event that took place little more than 100 feet above it. The dark shadow it casts seems all the more imposing in its contrast with the blinding light the plutonium bomb produced more than 70 years ago. At the far side of the fence is a line of photographs taken during and after the test. A low building shelters a collection of Trinitite, the greenish crystalline chunks that formed when the bomb drew sand into its vacuum, superheated it, and ejected it out around the site. Though pieces of Trinitite are not difficult to find, it is a federal offense to remove them.

After a quick lunch, we went to the Very Large Array, a series of antennae used to study space through radio waves. Our tour guide just so happened to be a Colgate alumnus, so we got a thorough tour. After looking through the control centre, we climbed into the dish of one of the antennae. Prior to this, we had been told that a single piece of electronics on the antennae cost $30,000. You can, I’m sure, understand the sense of disbelief we felt while standing on the edge of such a structure, looking out across the open plain dotted with measuring equipment. It was, to say the least, a unique experience, and a few among us also bonded over talk of astronomy professors with our host.

Our day was a mystifying mix of the feeling of being somewhere that few people would ever see, and certainly not with the intimacy with which we did, and the feeling of doing the kind of thing that you always want to but feel as though it would never be allowed. Today was very different from the untouched wilds we visited yesterday, but it was imposing in its own way. Truly, this is why we are here: to see things that cannot be seen elsewhere, things that we imagined we would never see, and things that we are very glad we did see.

Leave a comment

Comments: Please make sure you keep your feedback thoughtful, on-topic and respectful. Offensive language, personal attacks, or irrelevant comments may be deleted. Responsibility for comments lies with each individual user, not with Colgate University. Comments will not appear immediately. We appreciate your patience.