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Chinese probe reveals secrets of the moon

The Yutu-2 moon rover. AFP

The Yutu-2 moon rover. AFP  

The natural satellite is believed to have gone through a phase when it was composed of molten rock

Scientists have said they could be a step closer to solving the riddle behind the Moon’s formation, unveiling the most detailed survey yet of the far side of Earth’s satellite.

In January, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 — named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology — became the first ever craft to touch down on the far side of the lunar surface.

The moon is believed to have gone through a phase during its formation when it was partially or entirely composed of molten rock.

As it cooled, denser minerals sank to the bottom of the magma-ocean, while lighter materials gathered near the surface to form its mantle.

The team landed its probe in the Von Karmen Crater in the Aitken Basin at the Moon’s south pole — home to one of the largest impact craters known in the solar system.

They detected materials such as olivine and low-calcium pyroxene that are rare elsewhere on the surface. Authors of the study, which was published in the journal Nature, suggest that these materials were ejected from the Moon’s upper mantle when it was struck by a meteor.

Magma ocean theory

“Our results support the lunar magma ocean theory, and demonstrate that the magma ocean hypothesis can be used to describe the early evolution history of the moon,” said Chunlai Li from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Unlike the near side of the moon that always faces the Earth and offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged. The United States, Russia and China have all landed probes on the near side of the moon, though neither NASA’s Apollo missions nor the Soviet Union’s probes have ever returned samples of the lunar mantle.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 3:38:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/chinese-probe-reveals-secrets-of-the-moon/article27153353.ece

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