Cue the Aliens theme, because the Chinese exploratory rover on the moon’s far side has found something… rather… strange. According to a recent report by Space.com, citing a Chinese government space-focused publication, the PRC’s Chang’e-4 lunar vehicle – Yutu-2 – has discovered a strangely colored, “gel-like” material in a small crater on the far side of Earth’s only permanent natural satellite.
The discovery was made on the eighth lunar day – which began on July 25 – of the rover’s mission. (A lunar day is the period of time it takes for the moon to make one full rotation on its axis compared to the Sun, according to Universetoday.com.)
The fascinating find prompted the mission’s scientists to alter the rover’s travel plans: According to Space.com, the mission team postponed the lunar probe’s planned route west and turned its attention to the ‘space goo.’ Scientists then utilized Yutu-2’s Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) to analyze the strange substance in an attempt to identify it.
VNIS is an instrument used to identify the makeup of a material by analyzing the light scattered or reflected off of it.
Tracks left by Yutu-2 on the moon’s far side. Image via China Lunar Exploration Project
So, we know what you’re wondering: What the hell is the stuff? Well, for now, the Chinese team behind the Chang’e-4 lunar mission is being tightlipped about the find and have only stated that the substance is gel-like and has an “unusual color.”
Scientists that are not involved in the Chinese lunar mission, though, have speculated that the discovery might be melted glass, which was perhaps created during an impact event at some point in the moon’s past.
“Where [the Chang’e-4 mission team has] landed was once the site where a big asteroid crashed into the moon, buried itself deep inside and melted all that part of the moon, and presumably brought interior material up near the surface,” Grant Christie, Auckland Astronomical Society president, told Newshub earlier this year.
Why the melted glass (if that’s what the substance actually is) never hardened and still has a consistency similar to gel remains a mystery – for the time being, anyway.
[Cover image via China Lunar Exploration Project]