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Image Software Focuses on Earth's Oldest Fossils

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FREDERICK, Md., July 17 -- A unique 3-D imaging system is helping researchers produce accurate full-color images of what is believed to be the world's oldest fossils.

Scientists in the department of earth sciences at the University of Oxford, England, are using Auto-Montag -- developed by Syncroscopy, which makes digital imaging solutions for microscopy applications -- to capture and analyze many partially focused images of putative fossil structures embedded in layers of ancient rock. This has resulted in generating highly focused, 2-D images of what have been reported as the oldest fossils on Earth, something that was previously difficult to accomplish with any accuracy.

MICRO FOCUS: An image taken with Auto-Montag of a putative microfossil known as a Pseudoseptate filamentous artefact Primaevifilum amoenum.

   Owen Green, a scientist with the department of earth sciences at the university, said, "Before, we used print film and a conventional SLR camera and would routinely cut and paste the in-focus sections of the images together manually. The completed montage would then have to be rephotographed. This was not an exact science, and it was very tricky and time-consuming to obtain even an approximation of a focused microfossil image.

"To obtain high-resolution photomicrographs of ancient fossil structures, some reported to be 3.5 million years old, is very important," said Green. "This is just one factor enabling scientists to understand conditions on early Earth, and allows those studying Martian meteorites to appreciate the difficulties in recognizing biogenic structures, or abiogenic artifacts caused by mineralization."

Syncroscopy, a division of the Synoptics Group, based in Cambridge, England, has a US subsidiary in Frederick, Md.

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Jul 2003
Auto-Montagdigital imagingfossilsMicroscopyNews & FeaturesSyncroscopyUniversity of Oxford

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