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Photo Description: 
Pre-Columbian archaeological ruins are revealed through Costa Rican rain forest in this photo taken during NASA's AirSAR 2004 Mesoamerica campaign. AirSAR 2004 Mesoamerica is a three-week expedition by an international team of scientists that uses an all-weather imaging tool, called the Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AirSAR) which is located onboard NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory. The radar, developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, can penetrate clouds and also collect data at night. Its high-resolution sensors operate at multiple wavelengths and modes, allowing AirSAR to see beneath treetops, through thin sand, and dry snow pack. Much of the archaeological evidence needed to understand Pre-Columbian societies in Central America comes from features on the landscape. Difficult terrain and logistics have limited ground data collection. AirSAR helped to detect signs of ancient civilizations hidden beneath the forest. Its images will shed insights into the way modern humans interact with their landscape, and how ancient peoples lived and what became of their civilizations.
Project Description: 
AirSAR collects multi-frequency and multi-polarization radar data for a variety of science applications. It also acquires data in interferometric modes, providing topographic information (cross-track mode) or ocean current information (along-track interferometry). This March 2004 deployment was planned to: * Study the extent and distribution of archeological Mayan civilization (using foliage-penetrating radar) * Study the glaciers of Patagonia and the Antarctic peninsula * Investigate new techniques for the measurement of the forest structure of dense tropical forests * Fill in the largest "void" in the SRTM-derived map of South American topography * Collect additional data for various research initiatives During the deployment data is collected over Central and South America and Antarctica. During the approximately 100 flight hours, AirSAR is expected to acquire polarimetric and/or interferometric data along a 20,000 km track, or about 200,000 sq. km of data over 40 sites for 30 scientists. AirSAR will collect data related to the following NASA Code YS science programs: * Cryospheric Science * Land Cover/Land Use Change * Natural Hazards * Physical Oceanography * Terrestrial Ecology * Hydrology NASA used a DC-8 aircraft as a flying science laboratory. The platform aircraft, was based at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., collected data for many experiments in support of scientific projects serving the world scientific community. Included in this community were NASA, federal, state, academic and foreign investigators. Data gathered by the DC-8 at flight altitude and by remote sensing has been used for scientific studies in archeology, ecology, geography, hydrology, meteorology, oceanography, volcanology, atmospheric chemistry, soil science and biology.
NASA Photo by: 
Jim Ross
Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC)
March 2004
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