Chinese Lander Reveals What Lies Under Moon’s Crust

The decades-old mystery of what lies beneath the Moon is a step closer to being solved. Data from a Chinese space probe that landed on the Moon’s ‘dark side’ earlier this year is providing scientists with details of the material from its mantle.

Since the 1970s, many lunar experts have believed its surface was once covered in a magma ocean. When the molten ocean began to calm and cool, lighter minerals floated to the top, heavier materials sank. The top crusted over in a sheet of basalt, trapping a mantle of thick minerals, such as olivine and pyroxene,

Data from the Chang’e-4 probe reveals what lies beneath the Moon’s crust. (AAP)

Now scientists are scrutinising material exposed when the Chang’e-4 lunar probe, which has a lander and a rover, touched down in January. The impact when the probe set down  was powerful enough to tear through the outer crust, exposing rocks from beneath the surface, according to research published in Nature.

It became the first space craft to land on the ‘dark side’ of the Moon. The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate as it orbits our planet, so most of the far side – or “dark side” – is never visible to us. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side, but none has landed on it.

Scientists believe the Moon was once covered in a magma ocean. (Skye Ward)

Now the Chinese Academy of Sciences is examining data that the rover – called Yutu 2 – collected exploring the Moon. Heavy minerals containing magnesium and iron were found in soil examined by the rover. Scientists believe the heavier minerals would have sunk when the Moon was covered in a magma ocean while lighter materials floated upwards and were baked in the crust.

“This is the first ground truth of what the interior of the moon is really made of,” said Briony Horgan at Purdue University in Indiana. “I would say the really important thing is that it’s different from the Earth.” This difference may be because of how water changed Earth’s mantle early in its history.”

The Yutu-2 rover will continue investigating the materials on the Moon surface. Scientists are hoping the research will eventually reveal how the Moon’s surface evolved. This will help them study’s Earth’s exterior which originally had a magma ocean.Source: : News Space



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