Scientists make 'exciting' discovery that could finally solve disappearance of Amelia Earhart
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Scientists believe they have made an 'exciting' discovery which could hold the key to unlocking a decades old mystery surrounding the disappearance of one of history's most famous pilots.
In the 1930s American aviator Amelia Earhart made history as the first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, catapulting her to fame for her incredible achievement.
She went on to become an advocate for equal rights for women and helped establish the Ninety Nines, an organisation supporting female pilots.
However, she went missing in 1937 during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe by air, with Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan going missing over the Pacific Ocean with their bodies and aircraft never recovered.
Earhart was later declared dead in 1939, and her disappearance has long been a subject of speculation and conspiracy theories.
Some claimed Earhart and Noonan had died in the ocean after their plane went down in the sea, whereas others believe they managed to land on a Pacific island and died there, while some have suggested they were captured and executed by the Japanese.
If Earhart is somehow alive then she'd be the oldest living human in the world, so by now it's pretty safe to say that she's dead, but scientists believe they've found a clue in solving the mystery of her disappearance.
Analysis of the panel found it was inscribed with the characters 'D24', 'XRO' and a number that was either '335' or '385'.
The panel washed up on Nikumaroro island in 1991 and experts are hoping to determine whether it was at one point attached to Earhart's plane, which could help confirm the area her aircraft went down.
It would also go some way to proving certain theories about her disappearance and ruling others out.
Kenan Ünlü, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering at Penn State University, is director of their Radiation Science and Engineering Center, called the discovery 'the first new information' experts have been able to examine in the more than three decades since the panel was found.
By using neutron radiography they were able to see patterns which hadn't been visible to the naked eye to discover the letters and numbers.
It works by irradiating the target with neutrons to generate an image which people couldn't see normally, gleaning information which otherwise would have been lost to time.