NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Scientists with Sandia National Labs have detected noble gases being released from fractured rocks after a series of small under ground test explosions. This could help scientists improve their predictions of earthquakes or detect underground explosions.

Noble gases include helium, neon and argon; they form underground as radioactive elements in rock decay into more stable elements, according to Sandia National Labs. “The release of noble gases had been observed in the field in relation to earthquake activity, so we thought we would have a good chance of making these measurements in the field,” retired Sandia National Labs geoscientist Steve Bauer said in a release.

The team of scientists plan to continue research on a different type of rock. They said for these experiments they will collect samples from different locations and different times instead of measuring the gases in real time.