Lunar samples brought by Chang'e-5 mission shine light on space weathering
Lunar samples brought by China's Chang'e-5 mission have helped researchers to better understand the effects of latitude on space weathering (SW) on the Moon, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences(CAS).
Micrometeorite impacts and solar wind irradiation, the dominant space weathering processes, largely modified compositions and microtexture of soil materials on the Moon.
A team of researchers shone a light on the SW features of various minerals from a single basaltic clast of the Chang'e-5 sample. The observations reveal that the SW features are dependent on the host mineral species.
The study was led by Lin Yangting and Li Jinhua from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the CAS, in cooperation with multiple Chinese researchers. The results have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The researchers used a series of analytical methods to acquire the morphological, mineralogical, and crystallographic information on a single basalt clast of typical Chang'e-5 lunar soil samples, with most of the constituent minerals exposed on the grain surface.
A deep understanding of the processes and mechanism of space weathering is important for understanding the evolution of the Moon's surface material and the space environment, said Gu Lixin, a CAS researcher and the first author of the research paper.
The study also found that the lunar soil brought by the Chang'e-5 mission shows no significant microstructural differences from those of Apollo samples, which is suggestive of little latitude-dependent effects on lunar space weathering.
The Chang'e-5 probe returned to Earth on December 17, 2020, retrieving a total of 1,731 grams of lunar samples, mainly rocks and soil from the Moon's surface.