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‘Hidden’ structures discovered on the far side of the Moon

‘Hidden’ structures discovered on the far side of the Moon

The far side of the Moon is still quite mysterious to us.

It's been almost 60 years since we first touched foot on Earth's closest neighbour. Yet, researchers are still discovering new things about it, thanks to China's space programme.

In 2018, the Chang’e-4 lander, part of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA), became the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon.

Because the Moon orbits at a constant distance, one side is always turned away from Earth.

However, the visible side of the Moon changes due to its orbit, which is why we see full moons and crescent moons (when certain parts of the moon become more apparent).

(John Short/Design Pics/Getty)
(John Short/Design Pics/Getty)

Data collected by China's Chang'e-4 rover reveals 'hidden' structures in the lunar surface that account for billions of years of the Moon's history.

Previous types of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) could only reach 40 metres below the surface. Now, with more advanced technology, we can see much deeper into the Moon's geological structure.

Since landing in the Von Karman crater, the Chang'e-4 rover has captured amazing images of impact craters and collected mineral samples from the surface.

The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, said: 'The GPR sends electromagnetic pulses into the lunar interior and receives echoes from subsurface layers. We use the high-frequency channel data to detect the structure of the upper 40m along the rover’s path, primarily consisting of rock debris and soil.

'Through this investigation, we have discovered multiple layers in the upper 300m, which likely indicate a series of basalt eruptions that occurred billions of years ago.

(John Short/Design Pics/Getty)
(John Short/Design Pics/Getty)

'The thickness variation of these lava flows suggests a decrease in eruption scale over time.'

Jianqing Feng, an astro-geological researcher who co-led the study, discovered five distinct layers of ancient lunar lava beneath the crater, which spread across the landscape billions of years ago.

Over the past 200 million years, the moon has been bombarded by space debris which has created several cracks in its surface.

Interestingly, the new data shows that the volcanic rock closer to the Moon’s surface is thinner than its opposing side.

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

Chang’e-4’s mission continues and Feng and his team believe this is just the beginning of what their research is about to uncover.

Featured Image Credit: George Pachantouris/Chris Grimmer/Getty