New mysterious lunar substance has been found by the Jade Rabbit Rover, and it may tell us more about our moon’s history, a new study suggests.
The Jade Rabbit or Yutu, an unmanned lunar rover which is part of the Chinese Chang’e 3 mission to the Moon, discovered a type of basalt on the surface of Earth’s natural satellite. Scientists wrote that the new basalt had a mineral assemblage different from the samples collected during the Luna and Apollo programs.
About forty years ago, the Luna program (Russian) and the Apollo program (American) also found basalt on the moon. However, the newfound rocks appear to have a distinct mineral composition.
The rocks belong to the Mare Imbrium, an impact crater that formed about 2.96 billion years ago – which means that from a geological standpoint the crater is quite young.
Scientists could better understand the history of the Moon by analysing more of its rocky composition. For instance, the mineralogical and chemical data provided by China’s Jade Rabbit rover could tell more about the youngest volcanism on Earth’s natural satellite.
Although it is not clear how the moon formed, scientists have come up with a few hypotheses. One of them is that the moon came into existence after two protoplanets collided. The debris that resulted from the collision is likely to have formed our moon. In this hypothesis one of the planets was Theia and the other one was Earth. (note: a protoplanet can be defined as a planetary embryo that originated within a protoplanetary disc)
The moon’s rock compositions could help scientists determine exactly what happened and where the debris came from. Volcanic rocks hold the key to this mystery, because volcanic activity typically brings minerals from the centre of a celestial body to its surface.
Bradley Joliff, co-author of the study and a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Washington University of St Louis, said that the difference in basalts could tell a lot more about what took place deep inside the moon. The upper mantle of the moon is less uniform in composition, compared with that of Earth, he added.
The findings were published December 22 in the journal Nature Communications.
Image Source: nationalgeographic