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View Full Version : Discussion: Martian Fossil Finder in the Works



Fraser
2005-Jul-28, 05:07 PM
SUMMARY: NASA engineers are working on a new instrument that could peer through rock and dirt on Mars to see evidence of life under the surface. The Neutron/Gamma ray Geologic Tomography (NUGGET) would be wielded by a Martian rover, and aimed at suspicious rocks. By releasing a focused beam of neutrons, some of atoms in the target rock will capture them and give off a characteristic gamma ray signature, measurable by the instrument. Ancient fossils embedded in the rock would be revealed by their chemicals.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/nasa_develops_nugget_to_search_life.html)

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

antoniseb
2005-Jul-28, 05:12 PM
Although the concept of focusing neutrons is not new, the ability to focus them is.

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_...TML&format= (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=1992Natur.357..390K&db_key=AST&data_type=HTML&format=)

http://www.ncnr.nist.gov/instruments/neutfocus.html

I had not previously been aware of the ability to focus thermal neutrons. This is a cool technology that may have some pretty important uses in the future.

cran
2005-Aug-01, 04:41 AM
Originally posted by fraser@Jul 28 2005, 05:07 PM
The Neutron/Gamma ray Geologic Tomography (NUGGET) would be wielded by a Martian rover, and aimed at suspicious rocks...Ancient fossils embedded in the rock would be revealed by their chemicals.


I'm sorry, fraser, but the image you conjured up was amusing:

a Martian rover, like a roving marshall, wielding a .45 nugget, spots a couple of suspicious rocks loitering in the crater...."awright, put your minerals where I can see 'em, or I'll fire and expose your fossils!"

By then, hopefully, the distinction between biogenic and non-biogenic organic chemical signatures will be clear, so that we know it's a fossil remnant and not simply an organic compound such as those found in meteorites...then, there was that debate about the microfossil reported in the Antarctic meteorite study, which was then elevated to the rank of the earliest known interplanetary explorer which travelled from Earth to Mars (where it collected some Martian atmosphere in tiny glass sperules) and back to Earth again!

So, if you find a suspicious-looking rock, and you hit it with your nugget, and you get a positive chemical signature...then what?

Was it alive? Was it a true Martian? Was it an illegal immigrant from that blue dot closer to the sun?