The first identikit of the lunar soil sample brought back to Earth last December by the Chinese mission Chang’e-5 is ready: the two kilograms of dust and rock fragments are formed for 90% by materials of volcanic origin from the site where it landed the probe, while the remaining 10% has a different chemical composition that could be typical of other areas of the lunar surface and could even retain traces of the ‘cosmic stones’ that hit it. This is indicated by the study presented online at the European Congress of Planetary Sciences (Epsc 2021) by researcher Yuqi Qian of the China University of Geosciences.
Chang’e-5 is the first sample taken on the Moon by a Chinese mission and contains the geologically most recent lunar material ever reported to Earth: the probe landed in one of the ‘youngest’ areas of the Moon (the Ocean of Storms, ‘Oceanus Procellarum’), dating back to about two billion years ago and not sampled by previous US and Soviet missions.
In the mix of materials analyzed, glassy droplets stand out that seem to come from Rima Mairan and Rima Sharp, two inactive volcanic chimneys that are 230 and 160 kilometers away from the Chang’e-5 landing site: these elements could provide information on past episodes of eruptions of lava fountains.
According to the researchers’ reconstruction, much of the lunar material generated by impacts could come from the Harpalus crater, located to the north-east. Some may have been thrown from a distance of 1,300 kilometers.
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