For the very first time, researchers were able to see what lies above 300 meters (1,000 feet) on the surface of the moon. Their findings bring to light billions of years of lunar history that were previously unknown. But all the credit should go to China’s rover, which was able to map 1,000 feet of hidden structures deep within the shadowed side of the moon.
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The Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 has provided researchers with an unprecedented level of granularity with which to examine the layer cake of features that makes up the top 1,000 feet (300 meters) of the lunar surface. A massive impact on the moon’s surface caused the formation of a crater that was hidden beneath that feature.
It was suggested by Jianqing Feng, the principal author of the study and an astrogeological researcher at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, along with his colleagues, that the rubble that surrounded this formation was ejecta, or debris from the impact. The researchers dug further and found five distinct coverings of lunar lava that spread across the surface of the moon billions of years ago.
In addition, Feng and his coworkers discovered that the thickness of the strata of volcanic rock decreased depending on how close they were to the surface of the moon.
[The moon] was slowly cooling down and running out of steam in its later volcanic stage; Its energy became weak over time, explained Feng.
Although scientists have found signs of fresher volcanic activity on the moon that occurred as recently as 100 million years ago, it is believed that volcanic activity on the moon died out around 1 billion years ago.
The Chang’e-4 rover has not yet completed its mission on the moon. Feng has high expectations that in the years to come, the vessel would provide us with insight into other geological formations that we were not expecting.