Chinese scientists reveal, finally, the nature of the strange substance found in the hidden face of the Moon

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José Manuel NievesSEGUIRMadrid Updated: Save Send news by mail electrónicoTu name *

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In July of last year, the rover chinese Yutu 2, part of the lunar mission Chang 4, discovered in the hidden face of the Moon a strange substance coloured, of unknown nature and “similar to a gel . The finding was not reported by the chinese authorities until September. Since then, researchers around the world have tried repeatedly to find out more details about the mysterious material, but the scientists of the mission refused time and again to share the results of their analysis.

Now, a year later, chinese scientists have published, finally, an article in Earth and Planetary Science Letters in which they explain what it was that he found his rover. The unexpected discovery made the past year a moratorium on the planned activities of the rover, which is focused on finding out the nature of the viscous material, something never seen before on the lunar surface.

Until the moment, and apart from a few photographs, the only data available were those that appeared a year ago in Our Space, a publication of popular science in chinese language, which described the substance using the term ‘胶状 物’ (‘jiao zhuang wu’), which can be translated as “like a gel”.

however, as speculated by many scientists based on the available photographs, this is not a gel, but rock. In his article, Gou Sheng and his colleagues analyzed data from the panoramic cameras of prevention of risks of the Yutu 2, as well as the infrared spectrometer visible from the rover and confirmed the nature sound of the bright material.

In their article, the authors describe the substance as a gap-casting-impact color dark green and shiny, measuring 52 by 16 cm By its characteristics, it is very possible that the case of crystals, which usually form due to the heat generated by the impact of a meteorite or by a volcanic eruption.

According to the chinese researchers, the gap (broken fragments of various minerals cemented together) are formed by welding as a result of a violent impact. The material, write the researchers, is similar to the samples of gap melted of impact lunar samples brought back to Earth by the Apollo missions of NASA. In particular, we observed similarities with the samples designated as 15466 and 70019, a comparison that had already been made earlier by the scientific lunar Clive Neal at the University of Notre Dame.

shadow of doubt

These results, however, are not definitive. The researchers themselves point out in their article that their analysis were limited by the fact that the measurements from the spectrometer were taken in some lighting conditions little favorable.

According to Dan Moriarty, of the Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, the fact that the chinese mission is exploring an area completely unknown of the moon makes the measurements there are particularly challenging.

“we do Not have samples of that region-ensures – that help to establish the parameters of the model. For this reason, the accurate results of the composition of the regolith presented in this study may not be completely accurate. However, the authors do an excellent job of documenting rigorously its approach and assumptions, so that their results can be understood in the context of this problem extremely challenging.”

For Mortiarty, the interpretation of chinese scientists from the nature of the substance seems reasonable, and coincides with previous understanding based on the images available.

The article also pays attention to the surroundings. The authors suggest that the lunar regolith consists of there in a mix of materials that come from multiple sources. The ejection of materials from the impact that created the nearby crater Finsen, in effect, is considered as the main source, with possible contributions from the crater Alder.

The ship Chang 4 landed on the dark side of the Moon in January of 2019, within the crater von Kámán, 180 km in diameter. Currently, the rover Yutu 2 prepares for its twentieth lunar day, which will start around the 14th of July (a lunar day lasts about two weeks, ground). During lunar day 19, which lasted from the 14th to the 27th of June, the rover chinese investigated a small crater that also contains reflective material and that could be another sample of molten glass formed during impact.