Camera, Satellite Tracking, Baker-Nunn, Primary Mirror, Mirror Support

Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

This is the primary mirror and mirror support from the Baker-Nunn wide-field telescopic cameras that were built for, and used by, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. After passing through the corrector cell, light is reflected off this 31 inch f/1 spherical mirror and onto a photographic plate where film exposures are made. In 1958, SAO established a worldwide network of 12 camera stations to photograph satellites slated to be launched during the International Geophysical Year. This mirror and its support are from the initial camera sited at Oregon Pass, NM. It obtained the first civilian photograph of a satellite when Sputnik 1 flew over the Boller and Chivens Company in Pasadena, California while the camera was still being tested. The modified Schmidt type optics were designed by James Baker and manufactured by Perkin-Elmer while the camera proper and mounting were designed by Joseph Nunn and manufactured by Boller and Chivens Company.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory transferred the camera to NASM in December 1980 as part of a general suite of satellite ranging and tracking systems employed by SAO, including a laser-ranging system.