News

SDL Has Ties to Discoveries Made by Nobel Prize Winning Physicists

Space Dynamics Laboratory
November 15, 2006

NORTH LOGAN, Utah — Utah State University’s (SDL) has ties to the scientific achievements for which two U.S. physicists won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1988, SDL designed and built the external calibrator for one of the three instruments that flew on board the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE). The COBE satellite launched by NASA in 1989 measured scattered infrared and microwave radiation from the early universe. SDL designed the calibration equipment for the Diffuse Infrared Background Experiment (DIRBE) instrument which looked for and mapped cosmic infrared background radiation.

Nobel Prize winners, Dr. John Mather, senior astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Dr. George F. Smoot, professor of physics at the University of California Berkeley, were the driving force behind the COBE mission which studied the universe in its infancy. Mather and Smoot’s discoveries have contributed to our understanding of the origin of stars and provided clues to the formation of galaxies.

The instruments on satellites such as COBE can make measurements at visible and infrared wavelengths and give us information that furthers our understanding of Earth and space. Calibration of these instruments is a critical path to obtaining high quality data and imagery. SDL’s campus in North Logan, Utah includes facilities for conducting on-site calibration tests of complex sensors such as the DIRBE instrument.

SDL is internationally known for expertise in instrument calibration and has over 25 years experience calibrating sensor systems. Other sensors that SDL has calibrated include the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer (GIFTS), Solar Occultation for Ice Experiment (SOFIE), Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry (SABER), and the Spatial Infrared Imaging Telescope (SPIRIT III). GIFTS was designed and built for the purpose of improving weather forecasting, SOFIE will examine global weather patterns, SABER is one of several science instruments being used to study the influence of the Sun and humans on the atmospheric region 40-110 miles above the surface of Earth, and SPIRIT III produced some of the highest resolution mid-infrared maps of the center of our galaxy of the time. SPIRIT III and SOFIE were also designed and built by SDL.

As a key player in the calibration community, SDL hosts the Annual Conference on Characterization and Radiometric Calibration for Remote Sensing, known in the industry as the CALCON Technical Conference, which recently celebrated its fifteenth year.