Lunar Rover’s Rare Discovery Leaves Scientists With Questions
Space may be the final frontier, but it’s also something that we’re all superficially familiar with. While you might not know the mineral composition of an asteroid or the exact size of the Milky Way, everyone knows the basic order of things. Jupiter is the biggest planet, Mercury is the closest to the sun, and we’re living on a rock somewhere in between.
But sometimes that natural order is subverted by a monumental find. In fact, a lunar rover scouring the surface of the moon recently discovered a strange substance amidst the familiar rocks and dust that seemed completely out of place.
Unlike the space race era, people aren’t going to the moon so much lately. However, scientists are still scouring its surface for clues about the universe. In fact, China recently launched Yutu-2, an unmanned lunar rover that uncovered something… unusual.
After landing on the dark side of the moon, Yutu-2 started tracking across the lunar surface. It constantly snapped pictures along the way, hoping to capture evidence of anything that could be scientifically significant.
Scientists would eagerly examine each photo after it was beamed back to Earth, but they never spotted anything unusual. The rover needed to “nap” each day, however, giving them some time for extra analysis.
During the rover’s down time, each photo was analyzed down to the smallest detail. As usual, scientists just saw a great deal of dust. But in one photo, something abnormal stood out.
As you might imagine, the moon’s surface is pretty plain. While there are plenty of ridges and craters, there isn’t a great deal of color variation; just about everything is the same shade of dusty gray.
In one photo, however, there was a small glint of light. Something was shining at the bottom of a crater. The scientists were perplexed; nothing on the moon should naturally be reflective…
Re-assuming control of the mission’s rover, the researchers guided it back towards the crater in question. If something unexplained was there, they were going to see it up close and personal!
Yutu-2 crested the lip of the crater and dropped down into the dust. After a few quick maneuvers, its spectrometer was able to locate the strange substance. But what had the rover found?
The Chinese scientists carefully maneuvered the rover’s arm towards the strange object. Moments later, a crystalline substance emerged from the dust. But how did that gem end up buried in outer space?
Given that the rover was still over 200,000 miles away from Earth, it was hard to get a good read on what the material was. One scientist, however, had a good idea…
Mahesh Anand, a reader in planetary science at the Open University, suspected that the object could have been liquefied glass; due to the vacuum of space, it would have solidified into what the rover found.
Since the substance was discovered in an impact crater, scientists have taken extra interest in the find. They believed that it could actually have a connection they’ve already seen on Earth.