tech2 News StaffMay 16, 2019 11:02:44 IST
For the first time in mankind's history, a rover has taken samples from the Moon's mantle — an interior region of the Moon below its crust — that were likely thrown upwards and released to the surface during an ancient cosmic impact.
The Yutu-2 rover, which landed on the Moon in January this year after hitching a ride aboard China's Chang'e-4 mission, spotted the seemingly-primitive material in a smaller crater within the South Pole-Aitken basin — the largest impact crater on the Moon, roughly 2500 kilometres across.
The rover found minerals that were markedly different from what is typically found on the lunar surface, indicating that it was from a different layer, likely the Mantle below the SPA Basin floor.
Researchers think the rock samples could help uncover details about the ocean of magma from the Moon's formative eons.
Like many of the other rocky bodies in the inner solar system, the Moon, too, was covered in an ocean of magma that was hundreds of kilometres deep for millions of it years after it was formed, past research has suggested. Earlier this month, researchers also found that the moon has shrunk 50 meters (and continues to shrink) as it gradually cools from its molten hot creation.
As the ocean of magma cooled, some of the denser minerals like oxides of iron and magnesium would have crystallised at its base and the lighter minerals rich in aluminum or silicon would have risen up to the surface, giving the Moon its stunning, silica-studded glow.
"The ultimate goal is to decipher the mystery of the lunar mantle composition," Chunlai Li from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, told New Scientist. The rocks could be a useful tool to look into how the Moon and other rocky celestial bodies like the Earth have evolved — how its surfaces have changed so remarkably since then.
The scientists have detailed their findings from the Yutu-2 rover in a recent paper published in Nature.
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