"Chinese" lunar soil reveals secrets of Earth's satellite
A probe launched by the Chinese space agency Chang'e-5 previously delivered the first samples of rocks and debris from the Moon in more than 40 years.
All of the volcanic rocks collected during the Apollo (U.S.) missions were older than 3 billion years, and the youngest impact craters on the Moon known to science are less than 1 billion years old. The new soil delivered by Chang'e-5 was the perfect sample to "close" the two-billion-year gap that has made studying not only the Moon but also the rocky planets of the solar system difficult.
The lunar soil delivered to Earth turned out to be very young - it is 1.97 billion years old, writes Phys.org.
Determining the age of the collected regolith was one of the first scientific results of the successful mission of the Chinese probe Chang'e-5. Recall: in December 2020, the Chinese lunar mission delivered to Earth about 2 kg of stone fragments and dust from the Moon. It took a long time to study them.
Lunar soil sample numbered CE5CO400. Photo: Beijing SHRIMP Center, Institute of Geology, CAGS
The Moon is a planetary body about 4.5 billion years old. Almost as old as the Earth. But unlike Earth, the Moon has no erosion or mountain-building processes that "erase" craters over the years.
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"Planetary scientists knew that the more craters on a surface, the older it is; the fewer craters, the younger the surface. It's a good relative definition," says Brad Jolliffe, director of the McDonnell University Space Sciences Center. But to take it to an absolute and start operating on specific numbers or dates, scientists needed to study samples from different lunar surfaces.
Overview of the Chang'e 5 landing site. Photo: China National Space Agency's (CNSA) Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center
Analysis of the new samples gave us a very precise age of nearly 2 billion years, give or take 50 million years," the specialist commented. - This is a phenomenal result. In terms of planetary time, this is a very precise definition. And it is enough to start work on refining the chronology of the Moon's development".
According to Jolliffe, other interesting results of the study relate to the composition of the basalts in the returned samples and their significance in the volcanic history of the satellite - read about it here. Nevertheless, scientists' current findings are just the tip of the iceberg. Specialists have much to learn about the natural satellite.
The Chang'e-5 capsule, which returned with the moon's soil inside. Photo: China National Space Agency's (CNSA) Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center