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Tags Current Affairs

Mysterious substance discovered on far side of Moon

Date: 11 July 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

A peculiar "gel-like" substance the Chinese Yutu-2 rover discovered in a small impact crater on the far side of the Moon last year has now been identified.

 

Background

Chang'e-4 rover had discovered a dark greenish and glistening impact melt breccia in a crater during its traverse on the floor of Von Kármán crater within the South Pole Aitken (SPA) basin on the lunar farside.

 

Details

  • The substance was a rock that was melted together - likely in the heat of a meteorite impact - to form a dark green, glossy, glassy mass.

  • The glistening substance was first imaged by Yutu-2 in late July of 2019 and revealed the following month on the Yutu-2 drive diary.

  • It was described as "gel-like", which is an unusual descriptor for something found on the Moon, given the lunar landscape is a very dry, dusty sort of place.

  • A more detailed analysis of images taken using Yutu-2's Panoramic Camera, Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), and hazard avoidance camera supports this hypothesis.

  • The images allowed the scientists to break down the light reflected off the substance and determine its chemical composition, in addition to that of the surrounding regolith.

  • According to this analysis, the regolith is made up predominantly of plagioclase (around 45 percent), pyroxene (7 percent), and olivine (6 percent) - pretty standard Moon-stuff.

  • It is very similar to two samples retrieved by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, Lunar Sample 15466 and Lunar Sample 70019 respectively. 

  • The impact melt breccia was not likely formed in situ in the crater where it was found, but was very likely emplaced in a different event and was ejected to the 2-metre fresh crater.

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