China probe gathers more details on Moon's origin

PARIS • Scientists said they could be a step closer to solving the riddle behind the Moon's formation, unveiling the most detailed survey yet of the far side of Earth's satellite.

In January, the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e 4 - named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology - became the first craft to touch down on the far side of the lunar surface.

Similar to other bodies in our solar system, the Moon is believed to have gone through a phase during its formation when it was partially or entirely composed of molten rock.

As it cooled, so the hypothesis goes, denser minerals sank to the bottom of the magma ocean, while lighter materials gathered near the surface to form its mantle.

The team landed its probe in the Von Karman crater in the Aitken Basin at the Moon's South Pole - home to one of the largest impact craters known in the solar system.

They detected materials such as olivine and low-calcium pyroxene that are rare elsewhere on the surface.

Authors of the study, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, suggest that these materials were ejected from the Moon's upper mantle when it was struck by a meteor.


"Our results support the lunar magma ocean theory, and demonstrate that the magma ocean hypothesis can be used to describe the early evolution history of the moon," Professor Li Chunlai, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Agence France-Presse.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline 'China probe gathers more details on Moon's origin'. Print Edition | Subscribe