A huge plastic balloon floated high in the skies over New Mexico on Sept. 29, 2013, carrying instruments to collect climate-related test data with the help of carbon nanotube chips made by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The onboard instrument was an experimental spectrometer designed to collect and measure visible and infrared wavelengths of light ranging from 350 to 2,300 nanometers. Simpler, lighter and less expensive than conventional counterparts, the spectrometer was tested to determine how accurately it can measure the relative energy of light emitted by the Sun and subsequently reflected or scattered by the Earth and Moon. The flight was launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, N.M. The balloon travelled with the wind in the stratosphere for about eight-and-a-half hours before radio commands sent the payload parachuting back to Earth. The flight was the first of two intended to demonstrate experimental techniques and acquire sample measurements having possible future applications to Earth climate studies. Researchers at NIST’s Boulder, Colo., campus made the spectrometer’s “slit,” a high-precision chip that selected the entering light. The device was made under a recent agreement between NIST and the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric
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