Credit: Zhiyong Xiao, et al.


China’s Yutu-2 Moon rover has discovered two macroscopic translucent glass globules during its far side exploring.

According to a study published in Science Bulletin, the Yutu-2 rover captured images of two translucent globules using its panoramic camera.

Lead author of the research paper is Zhiyong Xiao of the Planetary Environmental and Astrobiological Research Laboratory, School of Atmospheric Sciences at Sun Yat-sen University.


According to the Xinhua news agency, no composition data has been obtained for the globules. “But their unique morphology and local context suggest they are most likely impact glasses — quenched anorthositic impact melts produced during cratering events — rather than being of volcanic origin or delivered from other planetary bodies.”

Major mechanisms

In the research paper, “Translucent glass globules on the Moon” the globules are different from the glass beads sampled by the Apollo missions, as they are larger in size and exhibit colors.

“Glass is ubiquitous in lunar regolith, and volcanism and hypervelocity impacts are the major mechanisms of forming lunar glasses. Volcanic glasses on the Moon occur as quenched skin of basaltic rocks or as glass spherules in pyroclastic deposits,” the research paper explains.

Chang’e-4’s farside landing zone.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Zhiyong and colleagues predict that the glass globules would be abundant across the lunar highlands, providing promising sampling targets that could reveal the early impact history of the Moon.

Panorama camera finding

The rover was deployed by the Chinese Chang’e-4 lander and is surveying the South Pole Atkien basin at the lunar farside.

Since being deployed from the lander, the Yutu-2 rover has traveled across the floor of the Von Kármán crater. In images obtained by the rover’s panorama camera, the two translucent glass globules were recognized along the route.

The Chang’e-4 lunar mission was launched on Dec. 8, 2018, touching down on the lunar landscape on Jan. 3, 2019.

Chang’e-5 return capsule holding lunar specimens.
Credit: National Astronomical Observatories, CAS


Cratering chronology

In related Moon work, published in Nature Astronomy, lunar samples returned by China’s Chang’e-5 mission in December 2020, Chinese researchers are updating the lunar chronology model. This work will serve as a more precise time ruler for not just the evolution of the Moon, but also that of other planetary bodies in the inner Solar System.

The research was jointly conducted by the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR), the Institute of Geochemistry and the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Lead author of the research – “Updated lunar cratering chronology model with the radiometric age of Chang’e-5 samples” – is Zongyu Yue of the State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, Aerospace Information Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing.

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