The Yutu rover of the Chinese lunar mission has found a new type of rock on the moon, says a study published in Nature Communications, on Tuesday.
If we set aside the orbiters that were forced to crash land, the Yutu is the first explorer that has landed on the moon since the 1970s and is poking around an area that was reshaped on account of volcanic activity in what is reckoned as a relatively recent activity. At just under 3 billion years old, these slightly-less-ancient flows have rock unlike the samples brought home by previous missions.
It is believed that some 4.5 billion years ago, the moon formed as a consequence of a planet, Mars-sized planet having collided with the young Earth at that time about 4.5 million years ago, creating a hot mass of molten rock. Some 500 million years later, building heat arising from decayed radioactive elements inside the moon ought to have given rise to the melting in the mantle causing volcanic eruptions.
Till now, the basalts that have been sampled from the moon had all been with very high or very low titanium content. Upon examining the young rocks, it was found that the basalts had high levels of iron and intermediate level of titanium. This observation gains importance since the composition and order of mineral in the basalt can only reveal the source of magma that helped in the formation.
Bradley L. Jolliff, from the Washington University, stated that “The variable titanium distribution on the lunar surface suggests that the Moon’s interior was not homogenized”. Jolliff had also collaborated with the Chinese researchers for analyzing the data from the rover. He added further that “We’re still trying to figure out exactly how this happened. Possibly there were big impacts during the magma ocean stage that disrupted the mantle’s formation.”
The results of the present research are expected to reveal the unexpected diversity of the moon and encourage scientists to study the surface from the orbiters.
Jolliff added that the ‘ground truth’ for remote sensing in the form of a well-characterized sample from a strategic location, is now available. Since similar signals are coming from orbits in other places, it has now become known that those other regions could also have similar basalts.