Recent findings from China's Chang'e-4 mission's rover unveil a mesmerizing tapestry of lunar history, spanning billions of years.
Marking a significant first, scientists have managed to unlock visuals of a whopping 300 meters beneath the moon’s surface, unraveling secrets held for billions of years. Since its 2018 landing on the moon’s far side—a first of its kind—China’s Chang’e-4 hasn’t ceased to amaze with its breathtaking views of impact craters and meticulous mineral samples from the lunar mantle. Now, its rover, Yutu-2, grants us an unparalleled view into the intricate layers of the Moon’s upper crust.
Advanced Lunar Penetration Radar: The Key
Empowered with the Lunar Penetration Radar (LPR), Yutu-2 has the capability to delve deep by dispatching radio signals underground and keenly listening to their echoes, as per Jianqing Feng, a renowned astrogeological researcher. This clever use of echoic radio waves lets scientists intricately map the lunar subsurface. While 2020 saw the mapping of the initial 40 meters, this time around, they’ve dug much deeper.
Crucial Findings from Below
Four pics of Von Kármán crater from a couple thousand images released from the Chang'e-4 rover Yutu-2's PCAM. Thanks to @doug_ellison for the instructions & check out the amazing stuff in his thread (processing, 3D models, panoramas…) https://t.co/Vxoese7Q70 pic.twitter.com/8CouxKgCBQ
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) January 5, 2020
Data indicates that the top 40 meters of the moon is a mix of dust, dirt, and fragmented rock. Interestingly, amidst these layers lies a crater, presumably the aftermath of a significant space object’s collision. Feng and his team theorize the surrounding rubble as impact debris or ejecta.
Descending further, they identified five individual lava layers, remnants of an era when the moon’s surface was painted with molten lava. A testament to our moon’s tumultuous history, believed to have been born 4.51 billion years ago post a cosmic collision. The moon’s past is riddled with space objects’ impacts, leading to surface cracks, and releasing molten magma in volcanic bursts.
Data from Chang’e-4 tells a tale of diminishing volcanic fervor. Successive layers of volcanic rock became increasingly thinner as they approached the surface. This indicates decreasing lava volumes in the newer eruptions.
“Lunar volcanic activity waned over time, hinting at the moon’s gradual cooling and dwindling energy,” explained Feng. Although largely perceived as “geologically dead,” Feng hints at potential magma reservoirs lurking deep within. And with Chang’e-4’s journey far from over, future revelations might yet surprise us with more concealed geological wonders.
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