By Keely Sexton
Dyar, with her students and research partners, has been building a database of more than 3,000 minerals and their spectroscopic signatures. This library is the brains behind the handheld instruments that shoot lasers or X-rays into unknown rocks in order to identify them by the light they emit.
Caroline Ytsma, a former technician in the Dyar lab, explained that the database will enable scientists to further refine and expand their ability to identify unknown minerals in space.
“We want to make it possible for an astronaut to just point and shoot this X-ray beam and get an immediate readout on the screen that says, ‘based on the light we got back, it’s probably X,” she said.
The Dyar lab is one of nine Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute teams helping NASA study planetary science and space exploration for the next five years.