January 28, 2023

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The moon, an unprecedented rock discovered by the Chinese Chang’e 5 mission

The Chinese Chang’e 5 mission, which landed on the moon in December 2020 and departed the same month, has discovered a new type of lunar rock, possibly belonging to an unexplored region of our satellite: among the samples returned to Earth by the satellite. Composite, in fact, there were also some never-before-seen ones that formed about 2 billion years ago, when there were still active volcanoes on the Moon. The discovery, made by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was published in the journal Nature Astronomy and could provide indications for choosing landing sites for future missions directed to Earth’s satellite.

The Chang’e 5 rover has collected more than 1,700 kilograms of lunar regolith, the collection of dust and fragments of material that make up the outermost layer of the moon’s surface. The researchers, led by Xiaojia Zeng, sifted through about 3,000 particles smaller than 2 millimeters: among these, they also identified some that had not been observed before, belonged to a new material with a high titanium content and contained larger crystals embedded in a glassy-type rock.

According to the authors of the study, this material could have been formed in the lunar region up to 400 km from its place of collection, in the northern part of Oceanus Procellarum, and then arrived there after several collisions with asteroids. Therefore, the new fragments come from a still unknown region on the Moon and reveal new clues about the satellite’s geological period that has not been investigated much until now. In fact, all the samples brought home by the Chinese expedition are the youngest ever collected, that is, they belong to a relatively recent period (2 billion years ago), which allows reconstructing the past history of Earth’s neighbor in new details.

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