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CUG Makes Progress in Lunar Volcano Research

Jan 20, 2023  

CUG team researched on young lunar volcanic eruptions by using the returned Chang’e-5 samples as ground truth, and published their findings in Nature Astronomy. The first authors are Dr. QIAN Yuqi, Prof. SHE Zhenbing, and Dr. HE Qi from the School of Earth Sciences; the corresponding authors are Prof. XIAO Long and Prof. WANG Zaicong.

Young lunar mare basalts are recent volcanic products distributed mainly in the Procellarum-KREEP-Terrane. However, these young basalts were never investigated in situ until 2013 by Chang’e-3, and then sampled by Chang’e-5 in 2020. Using the returned Chang’e-5 samples as ground truth, and examining Moon Mineralogy Mapper data globally, we found the young basalts containing less abundant olivine (<10%) than previously suggested. The Chang’e-3 and Chang’e-5 basalts belong to a type of underrepresented basalt. We reassessed the model ages of the young basalts using the new chronology function calibrated by the Chang’e-5 samples and found the young basalts have a trend of increasing TiO2 abundance with time. The young basalts with an age of around 2.0 Ga (billion years ago) are widespread in the Procellarum-KREEP-Terrane, including the Chang’e-5 unit. This indicates mare volcanism was still active at that time and an additional heat source or mechanism may be needed compared to older basalts. Young mare samples from Chang’e-5 and other potential sites are needed to constrain the late lunar thermal and volcanic history.

Age and composition of mare basalts in the PKT.

(Edited and translated from the Chinese version)

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