Chang’e 5 samples tell more of moon’s early history

BEIJING: Chinese scientists have discovered that lunar volcanism was still occurring about 800 million to 900 million years later than previously thought after analysing lunar samples returned by the Chang’e 5 mission, suggesting the moon cooled down much more slowly.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geology and Geophysics presented their results in three papers published in Nature on Tues- day.

Their analysis of basalts, a type of rock formed during volcanic eruptions, not only indicated that the lunar samples were the youngest to be dated, but also provided new data on the composition and water content of the moon’s interior, offering new insights on the moon’s thermal evolution.

The Chang’e 5 lunar mission returned with 1,731 gm of lunar samples on Dec 17, more than 40 years after the US Apollo and Soviet Union Luna missions retrieved their samples.

The samples were then distributed to 13 research institutes on July 12, with the research team at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics receiving about 5 gm.

Volcanism is a sign that a celestial body is still dynamic, and studying planetary volcanism can reveal a planet’s deep composition and thermal evolution.

Lunar volcanism was most active on the near side of the moon, covering about 17 percent of the lunar surface.

Geochemist Li Xianhua, an academician at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, said scientists have always been interested in figuring out exactly when the lunar volcanism started and ended, as well as the mechanism of formation of the most recent volcanism.

Previous radioisotope dating of lunar samples brought back by the Apollo and Luna missions suggested that most lunar volcanic activities ceased by around 2.9 billion or 2.8 billion years ago. Chang’e 5 landed in the Oceanus Procellarum region. — China Daily/ANN

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