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Tomography For Fossil Hunting
NASA Develops a Nugget to Search for Life in Space
Astrobiologists, who search for evidence of life on other planets, may
find a proposed Neutron/Gamma ray Geologic Tomography (NUGGET) instrument
to be one of the most useful tools in their toolbelt.
As conceived by scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in
Greenbelt, Md., NUGGET would be able to generate three-dimensional images
of fossils embedded in an outcrop of rock or beneath the soil of Mars or
another planet. Tomography uses radiation or sound waves to look inside
objects. NUGGET could help determine if primitive forms of life took root
on Mars when the planet was awash in water eons ago.
Similar to seismic tomography used by the oil industry to locate oil
reserves beneath Earths surface, NUGGET would look instead for evidence of
primitive algae and bacteria that fossilized along the edges of extinct
rivers or oceans. As on Earth, these remains could lie just a few
centimeters beneath the surface, compressed between layers of silt. If a
mechanical rover that explores planet surfaces were equipped with an
instrument like NUGGET capable of peering beneath the surface then it
might be able to reveal evidence of life beyond Earth.
Mars? What about right here on Earth?