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Visiting the DSOC and VLA

by Gustaaf Van Moorsel last modified Dec 02, 2015 by Heidi Medlin

NRAO Visitor Resources



Only official visitors can make reservations; there are no NRAO accommodations available for visitors touring the area.

NEW: Official visitors to NRAO facilities in NM spending less than one day must complete the on-line form https://main.nrao.edu/oas/dpscompliance.  Those not completing the form prior to their arrival will be required to do so before entering NRAO facilities.

Visitors on official business using NRAO resources (lodging, meeting rooms, computing, travel support, etc.) should instead complete the regular reservation form. These reservations must be made at least 1 week prior to your visit; 2 weeks' notice is preferred.

This reservation form cannot be submitted to the reservationist until all boxes marked with an asterisk have been completed. If you are experiencing difficulty in submitting the form after all areas marked with an asterisk have been completed, contact Stephan Witz (switz@aoc.nrao.edu) for assistance.  Computing requirements and the level of staff assistance needed must be specified through this online form.

All facilities for official visitors are in Socorro (see staying in Socorro); accommodation for visitors is no longer available at the VLA site. Observers wishing to be present for their observations should stay in the nearby towns of Magdalena or Datil.


  • First time student observers must be accompanied by their faculty advisor or a senior researcher for at least half of their first observation or data reduction visit to the DSOC. Attendance at our summer schools does not waive this requirement. Once a student has gained sufficient experience, he or she need not be accompanied by an advisor on subsequent visits.
  • In order to request staff assistance during your visit specify the level of assistance required (None, Consultation) under Project Information.
  • There are no public workstations and no scientific support staff at the VLA site
  • For all questions regarding reservations, contact the NRAO Reservationist at nmreserv@aoc.nrao.edu or 575-835-7000


Staying in Socorro


Visitors to Socorro can take advantage of the NRAO Guest House. This facility contains eight single, four double, and two two-bedroom apartments, plus a lounge/kitchen, and full laundry facilities. The Guest House is located on the New Mexico Tech (NMIMT) campus, a 5 - 10 minute walk from the DSOC.  Some rules to be aware of:

  • Payment is due prior to check out. For non-NRAO employee visitors, a credit card is requested to secure your reservation. Notify the reservationist in advance if charges are to be directly billed.
  • No pets of any kind are permitted in the facility. This is for the safety of residents as well as pets.
  • A program of monthly pesticide service is used at the facility to control insects. Contact the reservationist for more information.

Current Rates


Since Socorro is located just off I-25, it has more than its share of motels.  Most are located on California Street, the main business thoroughfare.  Typical walking distance to NRAO is 20 - 30 minutes.


NRAO Visitor Resources

A primary goal of the computing environment at the SOC is to allow every user full access to computing resources during his/her visit. There are 10 public workstations available at the SOC for full-time data reduction by visitors. They are mostly two-processor, 8 core , 2.4-GHz PCs with 24GB of memory and 4TB of local disk running Linux.  We provide a current list of these public workstations.  A public machine is reserved through your regular registration;

For hardcopy, we have a number of high volume B&W laser printers, two color Postscript laser printers which can reproduce on both paper and transparencies, and one wide-bed color printer.

Visitors should reserve time on these workstations when they make their travel arrangements through their regular registration; more information on the computer division's Public Workstation Rules page. Note that users may request remote access to the visitor machines as well, without actually visiting the SOC.  Remote reservations are subject to availability. Please contact the computing helpdesk (e-mail to helpdesk@aoc.nrao.edu, extension 7213, office 262) for further information about this and any other computing assistance while at the SOC.

For more demanding data reductions there is a 50 node cluster with dual 8 core, 2.6Ghz processors and 64GB of memory per node and a shared ~500TB parallel filesystem.  Priority access on the cluster is given to pipeline processing and local visitors.  Support for remote access to the cluster, including instructions for requesting time on the cluster and the policy restricting total time and data volume will be made available on this page by September 1st 2013.

For a more complete description of computing facilities at the SOC, see http://www.aoc.nrao.edu/computing/

Help for Visitors

We welcome observers to Socorro to calibrate and image their data. This is the best way to ensure the quickest turnaround and the best results from their observing. While in Socorro, each observer will interact with members of the SOC staff in accordance with his/her level of experience and the complexity of the observing program. The data analysts, computing helpdesk, and other staff are also available for consultation on AIPS and CASA procedures, and systems questions.

Visiting observers that require extensive help during their visit to DSOC to reduce and/or image data are encouraged to arrange their visit with an expert collaborator. In the absence of such a collaborator in their team, we recommend that they seek the scientific collaboration of a staff member. Queries about this can be sent through the NRAO help desk.

NRAO-wide information is available on the World Wide Web through http://www.nrao.edu, information specific to astronomers using the VLA may be found at https://science.nrao.edu/facilities/vla and the VLBA at https://science.nrao.edu/facilities/vlba.  These pages are regularly updated by the NRAO staff.

Getting there

For getting to Socorro and the VLA site we refer to our separate Directions and Maps page.