Using isotope dating and a technique based on the chronology of lunar craters, which involves estimating the age of an object in space in part by counting the craters on its surface, the team determined that the lava had sunk in Oceanus Procellarum barely 2 billion years ago.
Chang’e 5 was China’s first lunar sample return mission and the first probe to bring back lunar material since 1976. After launching in late November and returning in early December 2020, it is one of eight at least phases of the Chinese lunar program to explore the entire moon.
Nemchin says there is no evidence that heat-generating radioactive elements (such as potassium, thorium, and uranium) exist in high concentrations under the lunar mantle. This means that these elements probably did not cause these lava flows, as scientists had thought. Now they will have to look for other explanations on the formation of flows.
The volcanic history of the Moon could tell us more about that of the Earth. According to the giant impact theory, the moon could be just a piece of the Earth that broke off when our planet collided with another.
“Every time we get new or improved information about the age of objects on the moon, it has a ripple effect not only on our understanding of the universe, but also on volcanism and even just general geology. on other planets, ”says Paul Byrne, an associate. professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study.
Volcanic activity not only shaped the appearance of the moon – these ancient lava beds are visible to the naked eye today as huge dark spots on the moon’s surface – but can even help answer the question of whether we are alone in the universe, says Byrne.
“Part of the search for extraterrestrial life requires understanding habitability,” Byrne explains. Volcanic activity plays a role in the culture of atmospheres and oceans, key elements of life. But what exactly these new findings tell us about potential life elsewhere remains to be seen.