What China Found on the far side of the moon?

China Lunar Exploration Program (CELP) has finally released a photo of the gel-like substance that caused much hype earlier

Faisal Khan
Oct 29 · 3 min read

This is Part 2 of the first article that I wrote about China finding a bizarre substance on the far side of the Moon. The interest that the first piece generated, especially with regards to some creative responses that I got about what the substance could be deserved a follow-up piece, especially now that we have a visual on the gel-like substance.

From Protomolecule to an alien egg, and from duck sauce to blizzard players' bonus money, the previous article produced some imaginative responses on the origin of the mystery substance. Happy to report that we have a little more clarity on the subject as CELP has released a photo from its Yutu 2 moon rover.

For those of you, who are hearing the first of this, let me give you a little backdrop. The mission’s rover Yutu-2, has been steadily studying the geology of the lunar surface on the far side, ever since its landing in January (first such mission ever). On July 28, a Change’4 team member spotted a small crater from the main camera of the rover which contained material with a strange color & luster. The “gel-like” substance was unlike anyone had ever seen before on the lunar surface.

The findings were announced on Aug. 17 with the term “胶状物” (“jiao zhuang wu”) which translates to “gel-like.” This discovery & the resulting description sparked widespread interest among the astronomers. However, these first images that came from an obstacle-avoidance camera did not provide high-resolution images to determine the exact composition of the substance.

A desaturated, high-contrast version of the material viewed by Yutu 2. (Image credit: CNSA/CLEP/NASA/GSFC/Dan Moriarty)

In an attempt to further study the subject, Yutu 2 drive team postponed plans to have the rover continue west. Yutu 2 made a number of approaches to analyze the material using the rover’s Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS). Repeated measurements were taken with adjustments in orientation & the position of the sun in the sky.

CELP has now released a photo (above) from the rover that likely reveals the true nature of the previously unidentified substance. The photo reveals the center of the crater containing a different colored material from its surroundings. The image was released via a Chinese-language science-outreach publication’s (Our Space) Weibo social media account on Oct. 8.

Dan Moriarty, NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center has analyzed the processed image seeking clues to the exact nature of the material. Although the altered image lacks the details of a raw image, he gained some insights by adjusting the parameters —the material is heterogeneous in nature, with broken up fragments owing to the possible impact with the lunar surface, containing highlands crust, glass, impactor material & basalts.

Although it may seem disappointing to all the conspiracy theorists & the rest of the excited bunch, but the original explanation of melted glass created from the high pressure & temperature meteorites impact on the surface of the moon seems to be the most plausible one. Any other ideas?

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Faisal Khan

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Content Specialist in Cryptocurrencies | Blockchain | Financial Markets | Technology | Future | Science | Space


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