New lunar samples reveal recent volcanic activity on the Moon


The mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the Moon, later that month brought back the first fresh lunar samples to Earth in more than 40 years.

An international team of scientists has studied the rocks and produced the first results from the mission: the Moon was volcanically active more recently than previously thought. A study detailing the findings published Thursday in the journal Science.

The lunar rocks collected by Chang’e-5 are 1.97 billion years old – relatively young, astronomically, for a 4.5 billion year old moon. The mission’s goal was to retrieve rocks from the youngest regions on the lunar surface.

“This is the perfect sample to close the 2-billion-year gap,” said study co-author and Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth and Planetary Science in the Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington and director of the university’s McDonnell Center for the Space. Is.” Science, in a statement.

“All the volcanic rocks collected by Apollo were more than 3 billion years old,” he said. “And all young impact craters whose ages have been determined from the analysis of the samples are less than 1 billion years old. So the Chang’e-5 samples fill an important gap.”

Rocks on the Moon act like time capsules for their history and evolution. Unlike Earth, the Moon does not have tectonic plates or other processes that over time erase the existence of craters. Instead, these craters help scientists date different regions of the lunar surface.

Having a definite date of Chang’e-5 rocks helps scientists better establish the chronology of events on the Moon – and even provides a good model for dating craters on other rocky planets. does.

“Planetary scientists know that the more craters there are on the surface, the older it is; the fewer craters there are, the younger the surface will be. That’s a good relative determination,” Joliff said. “But to put absolute age dates on that, one would have to take samples from those surfaces. The Apollo samples gave us several surfaces that we were able to date and correlate with crater density. Extended this cratering chronology to other planets.” given – – for example, for Mercury and Mars – to say that the surfaces of a certain density of craters have a certain age.”

The basalt, or dark, fine-grained volcanic rock composition in the samples also suggests that volcanic activity was still occurring on the Moon about 2 billion years ago. The Chang’e-5 mission landed in Oceanus Procellarum, an area of ​​solidified lava from an ancient volcanic eruption.

This means that the region was likely once a source of heat to fuel volcanic activity, but there is no evidence of this heat source. This means researchers will have to investigate alternative possibilities behind the activity.

“Work will now turn to finding a mechanism that would explain how the Moon’s relatively recent heating may have supported the formation of basaltic magma with temperatures in excess of 1,000 °C (1,832 °F) – and ultimately the researchers helps to improve the age dating of the entire solar system,” study co-author and Professor Gretchen Benedix of Curtin University’s Center for Space Science and Technology in Australia said in a statement.

China is targeting 2024 for its next lunar landing with the Chang’e-6 mission, which will collect and return samples from the Moon’s far South Pole-Aitken Basin.

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According to the researchers, the research to understand all the secrets locked in the Chang’e 5 lunar samples is really just beginning. And the team leading this research is global, working together from around the world.

“The union includes members from China, Australia, the US, the UK and Sweden,” Jolliff said. “It’s science done in the ideal way: with an international collaboration, free sharing of data and knowledge – and it’s all done in the most collegial way possible. It’s diplomacy by science.”

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