The hardened lava debris delivered from the Moon to Earth by China’s Chang’e-5 mission was a billion years younger than material obtained from other lunar missions decades ago, scientists have determined. The results of the research were published in the journal “Science”. They could mean that the volcanic activity of our natural satellite stopped later than previously thought.
The rock samples transported from the Moon to Earth by US and Soviet missions were over 2.9 billion years old. Meanwhile, the samples obtained during the Chinese Chang’e-5 mission late last year are much younger, around 1.96 billion years old. This suggests that our satellite’s volcanic activity has lasted longer than expected.
The scientists informed about their findings in the journal “Science”.
In December last year, a Chinese unmanned probe landed on a previously un-visited part of the huge lava plain of the Silver Globe – Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms. 1731 grams of lunar samples were then taken and brought to Earth.
Chang’e-5 mission. Samples were taken from the moon
“The Oceanus Procellarum region on the Moon is characterized by high concentrations of potassium, thorium and uranium – elements that generate heat through prolonged radioactive decay and could sustain long-term magma activity on the Earth’s side of the Moon,” the authors of the article wrote, including Chinese researchers.
Scientists say that the source of heat for magma activity can also be the so-called tidal heating, generated by the gravitational pull of the Earth.
One of the main goals of Chang’e-5 – the mission named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess Chang’e – was to establish how long the Moon remained volcanically active.
The Chang’e-5 mission made China the third country to ever take lunar samples, after the US and the Soviet Union. The latter 45 years ago made the last successful mission of obtaining material from the Moon.
Moon – missions, science
Main photo source: NASA