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We discuss an automated procedure for determining the separation between a transient acoustic source and a detector on a plate. We use a time-estimation algorithm based on the assumption that the detected signal is represented by a small, finite number of discrete band-limited impulses. This is carried out using the MUSIC (multiple signal classification) algorithm in time-estimation mode to automatically estimate both the first arrival time of the lowest order antisymmetric (A/sub 0/) mode and the arrival time of the Rayleigh wave. Using the material and geometric properties of the plate and these two arrival times, we calculated the distance to the source. This technique allows the automatic determination of source-receiver separation from a single transient waveform.