Satellite, COBE, FIRAS, External Calibrator


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:

This is the external calibrator from the engineering prototype of the Far Infrared Absolute Spectrometer (FIRAS) that flew aboard the COBE satellite. This calibrator, which emitted black body radiation, was swung at intervals into the sky horn of the spectrometer. This provided a reference spectrum by which the instrument could be calibrated. he flight instrument that it represents sent back data for the 10 months during which the supply of liquid helium was adequate to cool the cryostat to 1.5 K. It provided a wealth of data that helped support and elucidate the Big Bang theory of the creation of the Universe.

This part from FIRAS was transferred to NASM from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in 1997. T

Collection Item Long Description:

Inventory Number


Credit Line

Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Country of Origin

United States of America


Overall - aluminum, plastic


3-D: 30.5 x 30.5 x 20.3cm (12 x 12 x 8 in.)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum



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