Radiometer, Far-Infrared, Balloon Borne

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Explore the Universe exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

Original balloon-borne spectrometer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that was flown in 1988 as the Far Infrared Survey (FIRS). The FIRS project showed that the far infrared radiation background is very similar in form to the microwave background measured by the earlier COBE satellite mission, in that its intensity agrees with that of a perfect thermal radiator at 3 degrees Kelvin. This observation provided additional support for the Hot Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe. After flight, the payload was cut in half by its makers for display purposes, mainly to show the sophisticated double refrigeration system that maintained the detector at 0.245 degrees Kelvin. The first half with most of the original internal parts went to the Adler Planetarium, and NASM acquired the remaining half, which underwent reconstruction by students from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. The artifact was donated to NASM by Edward S. Cheng and Stephan S. Meyer in July 2001.