In 2020, Chinese researchers mapped the first 40 meters below the surface of the Moon using records from the Yutu-2 LPR rover. Scientists managed to increase the revealed surface depth from 40 meters to 305 meters. Thus, interesting developments took place for the scientific world.
Several hidden structures revealed beneath the lunar surface
These building layers are thought to be volcanic rocks left behind after the cooling of the lava released as a result of meteor and asteroid impacts. The researchers shared their findings in the Journal of Geophysical Research. The findings reveal billions of years of previously unknown history of our satellite.
These lunar surface maps were made possible thanks to the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) aboard China’s Chang’e-4 rover, which became the first spacecraft to successfully land on the far side of the Moon in 2019. Now Chang’e-4 has used LPR, giving researchers the opportunity to look deeper into your moon than ever before.
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New data obtained by LPR shows that the first 40 meters of our satellite’s subsurface consists of numerous layers of dust, soil and broken rock. From that point on, as we moved deeper into the Moon’s surface, first thin and then much thicker volcanic rock layers were seen.
The thinner, more recent layers indicate that the lava flow was much thinner during more recent eruptions, scientists say. This sheds light on when volcanic activity on the Moon occurred.
This discovery appears to be in line with ongoing theories that most volcanic activity on the Moon ended about a billion years ago, although some evidence also suggests eruptions as early as 100 million years ago. The moon is mostly considered “geologically dead” as the eruptions have stopped, so having a subsurface map of the Moon can help know this for sure.
Ultimately, discovering these hidden structures beneath the Moon’s surface is exciting because there is still a lot we don’t know about our planet’s moon. Luckily, Chang’e-4 isn’t done yet. We expect to see more discoveries from the Chinese rover as we continue to explore and study our lunar orbiter, and we’ll likely learn more when Artemis III lands on the moon later this decade.
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