NASA archaeologist Tom Sever and scientist Dan Irwin, and University of New Hampshire archaeologist William Saturno used "remote-sensing" technology to uncover Maya ruins from space!
"From the air, everything but the tops of very few surviving pyramids are hidden by the tree canopy," said Sever, widely recognized for two decades as a pioneer in the use of aerospace remote-sensing for archaeology. "On the ground, the 60- to 100-foot trees and dense undergrowth can obscure objects as close as 10 feet away. Explorers can stumble right through an ancient city that once housed thousands -- and never even realize it."
Sever has explored the capacity of remote sensing technology and the science of collecting information about the Earth’s surface using aerial or space-based photography to serve archeology. He and Irwin provided Saturno with high-resolution commercial satellite images of the rainforest, and collected data from NASA's Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar, an instrument capable of penetrating clouds, snow and forest canopies and flown aboard a converted McDonnel Douglas DC-8 serving as a flying science laboratory. NASA's DC-8 was operated by Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
These resulting Earth observations have helped the team survey an uncharted region around San Bartolo, Guatemala. They discovered a correlation between the color and reflectivity of the vegetation seen in the images -- their "signature," which is captured by instruments measuring light in the visible and near-infrared spectrums -- and the location of known archaeological sites.