Friday, December 19, 2014

The Mystery Object

The other day, a mystery showed up at the door of the PhysicsCentral offices. The inimitable Buzz Skyline discovered this mystery object in his neighborhood and brought it to H.Q. We have no idea what it is, other than really cool looking, so we decided to do what CERN did a few weeks ago and ask our loyal readers to weigh in.

There aren't a lot of clues that go along with it either. A few of the guesses we floated are that it has something to do with astronomy or something to do with crystallography. Maybe it was used in an educational setting or a laboratory. In short, we have no idea.

Based on some of the manufacturing, it looks like it's from about the 1960s or 1970s. It's also got that old, institutional smell.

Most of its points of articulation can be precisely set to specific degrees. One notch for the astronomy theory is that knob that's marked N and S likely means north and south, so it could line up with the stars of the northern and southern hemispheres?



If it's astronomy-related, the big black arc in the front could be a horizon line marker. There's also small red numbers denoting degrees on its main "sail."



The company logo is definitely from an era before search engine optimization. Googling "Martin 3D" hasn't yielded any useful insights.

This knob which sets the black arc at the front doesn't have any markings indicating north or south on it.

One knock against the astronomy theory is there doesn't seem to be any place to mount a sight or finderscopes to align the thing with whatever astronomical object you're interested in.

All together, there are five main points of articulation for this thing, plus two little flaps on the side of its sail that look like it might be used to hold onto a piece of paper or something.

The only other clue we have is that it was found in an area where a bunch of scientists and technicians from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Also just up the street is the University of Maryland's physics department and a lot of people around where it was discovered work at the university too.

If you have any clue or thought about what this thing might be or how its supposed to be used, leave a comment and let us know. We're dying to know. If we solve the mystery, we'll post an update to let everyone in on the the answer.

We'd love to be able to use the thing for its original purpose once again. Until then, it makes for a lovely centerpiece around the office.

81 comments:

  1. Looks like somebody was getting fancy with a "barn door" star tracker. Just my best guess.

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  2. You could find points for a sphere. Maybe a 3D compass

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  3. maybe for an old style drafting table

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  4. Check Martin Aerospace Corporation, and possible ties to Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel at Univ of Maryland. http://windvane.umd.edu/..just a guess...

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  5. Longitude/latitude device? Like the person below just responded - a gps

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  6. Orbital inclination demonstrator I suspect. Not for pointing a telescope, for visualizing the orbital elements.

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  7. 'anonymous' is very close http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_L._Martin_Company Raw flight data could be visualized with small model (s) snapped onto center rod mount (s). Picture worth a thousand words.

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  8. The Martin Aerospace Corporation is a promising lead I was thinking about also. Particularly because the "Martin 3D" logo looks a lot like the Glenn L. Martin Co. Logo
    http://www.viewlogos.com/lockheed-martin-logo/

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  9. Martin aerospace was founded in 1993 Martin aeronautics is much older.

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  10. looks like a compound vector scoping magnatrommeter to me cause it sounds cool lol

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  11. At first glance I'd say it's a classroom Sundial, with the thin curved rod being the gnomon. With all those degrees of freedom, it could be a hyper-sundial which can be adjusted for other locations besides the one it's standing upon. If true, then why no small compass for aligning the base?

    Those little folded rods with u-shape section, perhaps they held another panel which is now missing.

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  12. A model to evaluate solar illumination at different latitudes and seasons? Herb Petitjean

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  13. It looks like a device to measure complex angles or a device to transpose complex angles to a surface

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  14. Kepler's Law of Planetary Motion ddevice?

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  15. Could it be a celestial coordinate translator? To translate between, for example, ecliptic or equatorial coordinates and horizontal coordinates. So you can figure out which way to aim your telescope.

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  16. did u put it in the sunlight?

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  17. Looks like it is for plotting compound sections of a sphere. The Concentric lines on the board are for different diameters of spheres, The degree marks on the curved vertical piece are for start point and end point markers for the section width, and the swiveling arms are a slide compass to remove either inner concave, or outer convex portions of the cross section. The degree adjustment at the end of the shaft would be set to the difference between the start point and the end point locations on the curved vertical piece in order to give a wedge shape, and the degree adjustment at the base of the shaft would be to select a portion of the sphere indexed from a relative point on the sphere.

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