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NASA Preps New Instrument to Explore Origins

The MicroSpec instrument is designed as an "instrument-on-a-chip" that could analyze infrared light at a scale that is 10,000 times more sensitive than today's devices. Besides observing and recording infrared light, the MicroSpec wafer, which measures just four inches in diameter, can use the characteristics of the infrared light to make conclusions about an objects composition and physical properties.

The device is currently developed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and is planned to go on future space missions to explore the state of the universe about 400,000 years after its creation. "Right after the Big Bang, the only elements that were really present in any abundance were hydrogen and helium," said project leader Harvey Moseley. "The formation of stars and the nuclear reaction that took place inside these first stars have created essentially all the elements that constitute the things that we see around here - the carbon in our bodies and the iron and hemoglobin in our blood. All these elements were formed in the many generations of stars that have been born and have died since the Big Bang."

There was no information when the design of MicroSpec will be completed.