Chinese Rover Discovers New Kind Of Volcanic Rocks On Moon

Posted: Dec 23 2015, 3:13am CST | by , Updated: Dec 23 2015, 4:24am CST, in News | Latest Science News


Chinese Rover Discovers New Volcanic Rocks on Moon
Credit: P-M Heden

Chinese Chang'e-3 touched down relatively fresh northern part of Imbrium basin in 2013

Chinese rover has found evidences of a new type of volcanic rocks in one of the dark basins on moon’s surface.

After some 40 years since Apollo and Luna missions, Chinese Chang'e-3 is the first to touch down the northern part of Imbrium basin in December 2013, which is the most prominent, lave-filled mare on moon and is visible even from the Earth as well. 

The region is of great scientific value due to its lava variations. Chang'e-3 landed on a comparatively young lava flow and collected rock and soil samples through lunar rover Yutu and compared it with compositional information detected by orbiting satellites. 

“Our analysis indicates that this young lunar mare region has unique compositional characteristics, and represents a new type of mare basalt that has not been sampled by previous Apollo and Luna missions and lunar meteorite collections.” Authors wrote in the research.


Chang’e-3 lander sheds new light into the evolution of the closest neighbor and reveals diverse moon than one than the one emerged from previous studies as samples were obtained from a fresh crater, which was initially called Purple Palace and is now officially named Zi Wei.

"The diversity tells us that the Moon's upper mantle is much less uniform in composition than Earth's," said Bradley Jolliff, professor from Washington University who helped analyze Chang'e-3 mission data. "And correlating chemistry with age, we can see how the Moon's volcanism changed over time."

Moon is thought to have formed when Earth collided with a Mars-sized object. Moon cooled off but volcanic activity continues to occur in its vast area.

The American Apollo (1969-1972) and Russian Luna (1970-1976) missions sampled igneous rocks from the period of peak volcanism that occurred between 3 and 4 billion years ago while the Imbrium basin from where Chang'e-3 collected samples, contains some of the younger flows - 3 billion years old or slightly less.

The basalts returned by Apollo and Luna missions had either high titanium content or very low titanium but not the intermediate value. But basalts collected by Chang’e-3 have intermediate titanium, high levels of calcium oxide and iron. Titanium is especially important element in mapping and understanding volcanism on the Moon.

Nevertheless, new basaltic rocks are different from what have been observed in previous mission to moon almost four decades ago

“We recognize a new type of lunar basalt with a distinctive mineral assemblage compared with the samples from Apollo and Luna, and the lunar meteorites. The chemical and mineralogical information of the CE-3 landing site provides new ground truth for some of the youngest volcanism on the Moon.” Study concludes.


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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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