China’s Chang’E 4 rover named for the Chinese goddess of the moon has brought us new secrets from the far side of the moon.
Scientists in China have released new updates about the moon’s mantle on its far side, uncovering new secrets.
In January of this year, Chang’E 4 (CE-4) probe became the first mission to land on the moon’s far side. The rover lies within a vast impact crater created by an asteroid strike billions of years ago.
CE-4 has since begun exploring the 1,553-mile-wide (2,500-kilometer) South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin. The basin could be at least 3.9 billion years old.
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The rover has collected new evidence from the largest crater in the solar system. Therefore helping us better understand how the Moon may have evolved.
“Understanding the composition of the lunar mantel is critical for testing whether a magma ocean ever existed, as postulated,” said corresponding author Li Chunlai, a professor of the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC). “It also helps advance our understanding of the thermal and magmatic evolution of the moon.”
The evolution of the moon may also provide a window into the evolution of Earth and other terrestrial planets, according to Li. That’s because its surface is relatively untouched compared to, say, the early planetary surface of Earth.
Chinese rover collected spectral data samples from the flat stretches of the basin, as well as from other smaller but deeper impact craters within the basin.
It turns out the impact that formed Von Kármán was so powerful it punched through the Moon’s crust and into the layer below, the mantle.
Scientists were expecting to find solidified rocks from the mantle which would have been kicked by the impact.
Instead, they found mere traces of olivine, the primary component of the Earth’s upper mantle.
However, CE-4 will need to explore more to better understand the geology of its landing site.
Researchers published their results on May 16, 2019, in Nature.