Opaque amber research

Opaque amber research

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This image is part of the feature 21st Century Machine Shines Light Onto A Fossil World

Credit: PASCAL GOETGHELUCK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Opaque amber research. Palaeontologist Paul Tafforeau, from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, looking at trays of opaque amber. The 100-million-year-old amber (fossilised resin from prehistoric coniferous plants) will be X-rayed at the ESRFto detect the presence of inclusions (remains of trapped insects or plants). The ESRF X-rays are one thousand billion times more powerful than hospital X-rays. They are fired around the amber at multiple angles to create virtual slices. These are reconstructed into a 3D computer model or a physical model. In 2008 this technique has revealed over 350 extinct fossil animals, such as wasps, flies, ants and spiders, many of which were previously unknown.

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