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‘Mysterious ‘hidden structures’ beneath the dark side of the moon reveals billions of years of lunar history

‘Mysterious ‘hidden structures’ beneath the dark side of the moon reveals billions of years of lunar history

They could uncover so much about our moon's history.

Thanks to China's space programme, we're now able to learn more about the billion years' worth of secrets within our lunar planet's past.

In 2018, the Chang’e-4 lander, of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA), became the first-ever spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon - the side that always faces away from Earth.

While the far side of the moon may seem dark by our definition, it still has a lunar day and lunar night just like the closer side.

'Humans always want to know what’s on the other side of the mountain and the part that you can’t see, so that’s a kind of psychological motivation,' said Renu Malhotra, the Louise Foucar Marshall Science Research Professor and Regents Professor of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson.


'Of course, we’ve sent space probes that have orbited the moon, and we have images, so in a sense, it’s less mysterious than before.'

Since landing in the Von Karman crater, it has since captured fantastic images of impact craters, collecting mineral samples and ultimately, providing new insights into the geology of the moon’s surface.

Earlier this month, the Chang’e-4’s findings were published, revealing that the top 130 feet (40m) of the lunar surface consists of multiple layers of dust, soil, and broken rocks.

Within these layers is a crater which formed from a major impact, according to Jianqing Feng, an astrogeological researcher at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, who co-led the study.

Beneath the crater, however, Feng and his colleagues discovered five distinct layers of ancient lunar lava that spread across the landscape billions of years ago.

Over 200 million years, the moon has been bombarded by space debris, creating cracks in its surface.


Just like Earth, the moon’s mantle contained pockets of molten magma.

These pockets filled the cracks through volcanic eruptions, Feng explained.

However, the new data from Chang’e-4 showed that the closer the volcanic rock was to the moon’s surface, the thinner it got.

'[The moon] was slowly cooling down and running out of steam in its later volcanic stage,' Feng added. 'Its energy became weak over time.'

Volcanic activity on the moon is thought to have ended between a billion and 100 million years ago, marking it “geologically dead.” However, there may still be magma deep beneath the lunar surface.

'We saw this completely different hemisphere: not covered in large volcanic lava flows, pockmarked with craters, a thicker crust. It just tells a different story than the near side,' said Noah Petro, NASA project scientist for both the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Artemis III.

Chang’e-4’s mission is ongoing, and Feng and his team believe this is just the beginning of their exciting exploration.

Featured Image Credit: NASA