Drum roll please… The “gel-like” material China dramatically announced that it had discovered on the far side of the Moon last year was, well, melted bits of Moon rock.
That’s the somewhat deflating realization a team of Chinese scientists made after they studied the substance, discovered by China’s Yutu 2 rover last July, as Space.com first reported.
On January 3 2019, China’s Chang’e 4 lunar probe made history by becoming the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the Moon, the mysterious, less-studied side facing away from Earth. In tow was the Yutu 2 rover, designed to crawl the rocky landscape over several freezing months.
Then in September, China claimed that it’s rover had stumbled upon an unusually colored “gel-like” substance on the bottom of an impact crater, puzzling scientists. The strange material was described as a “colored mysterious substance” in the rover’s diary, as translated by Google.
And according to a new paper published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, a team of Chinese scientists were able to confirm their suspicions: the material, measuring 20 by six inches, is likely the result of material melting due to either meteor impacts or volcanic eruptions, or “impact melt breccia.”
Their guess is based on data obtained by Yutu 2’s panoramic and hazard avoidance cameras, as well as the rover’s Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) instrument. Thanks to bad lighting, that guess is still not, uh, set in stone yet.
“We don’t have samples from this region that would help inform the model parameters,” NASA postdoctoral program fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center Dan Moriarty told Space.com. “For this reason, the precise regolith composition results presented in this paper may not be completely accurate.”
More on the strange Moon substance: China Claims Its Moon Rover Found a Colorful “Gel Like” Substance