Bangor native, ‘space archaeologist’ Sarah Parcak to appear on ‘Late Show with Stephen Colbert’

sarah-parcak-600x400 Photo courtesy of Sarah Parcak/University of Alabama Birmingham


Sarah Parcak, a world-renowned archaeologist and 1997 graduate of Bangor High School who recently was awarded the $1 million 2016 TED Prize, is set to appear on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ on Friday night.

Fighting terrorism with science

Parcak, who has been called a ‘satellite archaeologist’ and a ‘space archaeologist,’ uses satellite imagery to locate archaeological sites. Recently, the technology has also been used to protect sites in the Middle East from looters who would sell the items inside on the black market.

Money from those looters has been linked to terrorism, according to the FBI. Parcak and others in her field compare older satellite pictures of ancient sites with newer ones to see whether looting may have taken place and then alert local authorities.

“For the first time technology has gotten to the point where we can map looting,” said Parcak, in a New York Times article published last year.

parcak2-600x400 Photo courtesy of Sarah Parcak/University of Alabama Birmingham


‘Space X-ray’

Parcak also uses satellite imagery to locate buried sites using special cameras. “Think of it as a space-based MRI, or X-ray machine. Basically, we send up a satellite that takes pictures of the Earth, that record information on the different parts of the light spectrum that we can’t see with the human eye,” Parcak said in a 2011 interview with the Bangor Daily News.

“We may see a tree as just being a tree, but if there’s a pyramid or a city buried underneath, that is going to affect the vegetation, the soil, the geology around it. That difference shows up in parts of the light spectrum, and that’s one of the things that gives us a clue that there’s something underneath.”

Watch a TED talk she gave on the topic in March 2012 below:

The TED prize will allow Parcak to pursue a new project, which will be announced in full next month at the TED Conference, but which hopefully she’ll discuss with Colbert.

Country singer Kacey Musgraves is the scheduled musical guest on Friday’s Late Show, in case you needed another reason to watch. Actor Matthew Broderick is also set to be a guest that night.