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 and is now displayed in the Explore the Universe gallery.
Collection Item Long Description:
National Air and Space Museum
Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Gift of Edward S. Cheng and Stephan S. Meyer.
- Mixed metals and ceramics
3-D: 63.5 × 40.6 × 99.1cm (25 × 16 × 39 in.)
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National Air and Space Museum Collection
Country of Origin
United States of America