Volcanoes On Moon :
Our moon is the closest celestial object for us, curious humans, to begin exploring beyond earth, and it has always been a hot favorite for our scientists to seek answers for many unanswered questions and trying to set up human colonies on the lunar surface.
And recently the astronomers claimed to have answered one of the many unsolved questions.
Were there volcanoes on moon?
In December 2020, the Chinese space mission – Chang’e 5 lander had successfully retrieved 2 kgs of lunar soil samples and flew back to earth, and landed in China’s Inner Mongolia region making it the first-ever lunar sample retrieved of the 21st century.
The sample was retrieved from the region named Oceanus Procellarium where the lander had landed.
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The existence of volcanoes on the moon was confirmed by NASA’s Apollo Space program and Soviet Union’s uncrewed Luna missions in the late 1960s and 70s.
The missions reported that the volcanic eruptions on the Moon happened between 3.8 – 3 billion years ago. Those missions landed on the much older regions on the moon
However, the recent Chang’e 5 mission revealed that the volcanoes on moon that once existed aren’t as old as we thought they were.
Image credit: NASA
The sample which is about two billion years old revealed that the volcanism on the lunar surface is at least one billion years younger than previously predicted by the 1960s and 1970s lunar missions.
“This is the youngest-ever lava flow dated from the moon,” said Katherine Joy, a planetary scientist at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom (UK) who’s also the co-author of the study. The research report was published in Science.
Just like on earth, volcanoes on Moon occurred when magma from the heart of the Moon is pushed towards the surface, creating vast bodies (seas) of basaltic rock.
The basaltic rock region formed by massive basaltic magma flow that lasted millions, if not 100s of millions, of years in Oceanus Procellarum, is nearly 2000 cubic kilometers wide that can be seen from earth.
The age of the basaltic sample collected by Chang’e 5 was determined by radioactive dating.
The scientists stated that this revelation helps in filling the void in the Moon’s geology and will help to study the past of other celestial bodies, like Mars, the present aimed planet to send humans.
“It’s absolutely essential to get more data points, that’s what this paper has done,” said Ian Crawford, a planetary scientist at Birkbeck.
However, the question of what drove volcanoes on moon still remains unanswered clearly.
One theory suggests that the volcanoes on Moon were driven by the residual radioactive thorium, potassium, and uranium within the moon which provided the necessary heat for volcanism. But the samples retrieved by Chang’e 5 did not show such abundant availability of any radioactive elements.