Read the full story from Penn State University.
The aluminum panel is dull, corroded and covered in a patina of scratches from tumbling around the Pacific Ocean, likely for decades, before washing up on the small atoll of Nikumaroro. Parallel rivet lines puncture the panel, similar to the ones that dotted the Lockheed Electra Amelia Earhart flew on her ill-fated round-the-world trip in 1937, but they’re not a precise match. It is possible that the panel was a retrofit — a patch to replace a rear window — but with only 85-year-old photos to compare, the theory is difficult to investigate beyond reference measurements.
But it’s not impossible, especially with neutron radiography. The non-destructive imaging technique can peer beyond the veneer of age and damage to spy the tiniest of clues. It can also ferret out mere hints of contaminants, including pervasive pollutants.