HENRY Ford famously said 'history is bunk', but this story sounds like a load of cannonballs.

Scientists at Harwell's Diamond Light Source laboratory have been blasting Henry VIII's cannonballs with a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun to see how rusty they are.

Specifically, those cannonballs are from the corpulent king's Mary Rose battle ship, sunk in 1545 and raised from the sea in 1982.

Dr Ian Freestone and colleagues from University College London have been using the incredibly bright light produced by Diamond's particle accelorator to X-Ray the Tudor balls and see how well different conservation methods are preserving them.

Dr Eleanor Scofield, head of conservation at the Mary Rose, explained: "This is conservation science at its most cutting edge.

"We have taken just 12 of the cannonballs - less than one per cent of the Mary Rose's stock but enough to provide statistical validity of our findings - to investigate different methods of conservation .

"Our cannonball sample is unique in that they were all raised from the sea at the same time, made at the same time, and are of very similar construction as only one iron blast furnace existed in Britain at the time of the Mary Rose's construction.

"This means that once we've found the solution, then the cannonballs can be preserved for generations to come and the science made available globally to all those whose conservation work involves maritime or iron-rich artefacts."

Diamond’s bright light X-rays make it possible to visualise the differences in corrosion and trace them to the treatments applied.

Diamond CEO Andrew Harrison said: "This study is a wonderful example of the kind of ground-breaking research that happens when unique institutions collaborate."