ALBUQUERQUE (AP) -- A piece of metal billed as being from a purported UFO crash in southeastern New Mexico nearly 50 years ago bears the chemical fingerprints of materials found on Earth, scientists say.
Copper and silver in the scrap of metal match copper and silver on Earth, said Larry Callis, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist who conducted sophisticated tests on the metal earlier this month.
Scientists have theorized that the same materials from different parts of the galaxy would show detectable differences.
Miller Johnson, a member of the board of the Roswell International UFO Museum and Research Center, said the test results increase the odds that the material is of Earth origin -- but don't rule out the possibility of extraterrestrial origin.
"It doesn't necessarily exclude it from being extraterrestrial. It just makes it less likely," said Johnson, who arranged for the tests.
Skeptics of the story that a space ship crashed near Roswell in 1947 agreed with Johnson's assessment.
While the fragment failed a test that could have shown it to be of extraterrestrial origin, that doesn't by itself prove the object came from Earth, they said.
"It's sort of a null result," said Charles Moore, a retired New Mexico Tech physics professor who is a leading skeptic of the UFO crash story.
Skeptics of the UFO story, including Moore, believe the crash involved a balloon that was part of a top secret nuclear research program.
The Roswell museum, a major tourist attraction, obtained the piece of the alleged crashed space ship from unidentified sources earlier this year. It requested the tests on the material and paid the lab $725 for the work.
Callis said a Los Alamos team studied the ratios of various isotopes of silver and copper in the material, using a $500,000 detector normally used to study plutonium and uranium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.
Ratios of isotopes are used to provide chemical fingerprints for various substances. Isotopes are atoms of a given substance with slightly different atomic weights.
The first word of the test results was published in the August issue of NMSR Reports, a monthly newsletter published by New Mexicans for Science and Reason. The group's members have been outspoken critics of the Roswell UFO story.
Moore praised the willingness of Johnson and the UFO museum to have the material tested.
"I'm so glad they did this instead of keeping it mysterious," he said.
------- Further Reporting From Reuter -------
SCIENTISTS DOUBT "ROSWELL UFO" PIECE
SANTA FE, NM, Aug 13 (Reuter) -- A fragment of wreckage from a supposed spaceship crash in New Mexico is composed of metals found on Earth, a scientist said on Tuesday, casting doubt on claims it was once part of an alien craft.
Larry Callis, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said his tests confirmed that copper and silver in the fragment matched the metals' earthly composition.
"I sort of expected it to be terrestrial," said Callis, who conducted the isotopic tests on the fragment for a Roswell UFO museum. "(But) it was fun doing something different," said Callis, who normally tests uranium and plutonium for the lab's nuclear research facility.
The metal fragment was found by military personnel investigating a mysterious crash in the desert outside Roswell, New Mexico, on July 4, 1947, said Deon Crosby, director of the Roswell International UFO Museum and Research Centre, which paid for the tests.
The crash inspired the summer blockbuster "Independence Day" and is considered by many as evidence of alien life. But the U.S. Air Force has said the wreckage was remnants of a spy balloon used to detect the launch of Soviet nuclear missiles.
Museum officials were undaunted by the lab tests and said they believed the fragment was part of an unidentified flying object, or UFO. "We may not yet, as a nation, have the scientific tools to recognise materials from out of this universe," Crosby said.
Original file name: .CNI - Roswell Metal.AP
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