NUGGET: NASA's New 'Tricorder'

NUGGET (Neutron/Gamma Ray Geologic Tomography), an instrument containing a neutron generator, a neutron lens and a gamma-ray detector, could be used to investigate important biological indicators of life on distant worlds - just like Star Trek's tricorder.


(Neutron/Gamma Ray Geologic Tomography)

The system provides a three-dimensional scanning instrument that focuses a beam of neutrons into an object. When the nucleus of an atom inside the rock captures the neutrons, it produces a gamma-ray signal for that element, which the gamma-ray detector then analyzes. The location of the elements can also be plotted; information can then be turned into an image of the elements within the rock. Scientists could then tell whether a certain type of bacteria had become fossilized inside the rock.

Many of us remember the tricorder from the original Star Trek series of the mid-1960's. The standard Starfleet tricorder was used for determining various characteristics of landing areas (like life form readings). (Doctors and engineers had their own specific types of tricorder.)


(Spock's Tricorder - Detail)

For other news related to sensors and science fiction, see EyeBall: Omni-Directional Smart Eye Sensor and ThereminVision Sensor: Robot Proximity Detection. Read more at NASA develops a NUGGET to search for life in space and at Astrobiology magazine. See also more tricorder images and details.

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