Yutu

Chinese scientists have announced a new kind of rock discovered on the Moon. The discovery was made by a Chinese lunar lander that was launched in 2013, which explored an ancient  flow of volcanic lava. The new moon rock that was recently discovered apparently bears mineral composition that is unlike anything collected and studied by American astronauts between 1969 and 1972 or the last Soviet lander launched in 1976.

The study, which was published in Nature Communications, is now expected to enhance readings from satellites and could also help us better understand the origins and evolution of our moon.

The find was made by China’s rover called Yutu or "Jade Rabbit."

Ultimately, it is believed that the lava the rover studied flowed around 3 billion years ago. Geochemists now can use the information to reconstruct a rock flow’s history based on the mix of minerals in the cooled lava. Previous samples collected by American astronauts, or from the Soviet Luna probe, were all either high or low in titanium. However, the latest information reported from the Chinese rover shows medium titanium content and high iron oxide.

Discovery

“The diversity tells us that the Moon’s upper mantle is much less uniform in composition than Earth’s. And correlating chemistry with age, we can see how the moon’s volcanism changed over time,” said Bradley Joliff of the Washington University of St Louis.

Image credit: China's Yutu

The difference in titanium distribution on the lunar surface gives scientists clues as to the composition and deep interior of a planet.

The report was released from an impact crater in the Mare Imbrium and is evidence of the continued development of space exploration around the world. Where Americans and Russians were once the front runners of the field, the world now sees countries such as China, Japan, and India joining the quest to understand bodies beyond our own Pale Blue Dot.

It is, in many ways, a new era of discovery.


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