The dead husk of rock that orbits our planet is almost impossible to imagine looking any different. However, billions of years ago, the moon was a massive volcanic satellite before its relatively recent demise.
The death of the moon, when its volcanic activity stopped, was estimated to be around four billion years ago. Yet, Chinese scientists have discovered that the deceased planetoid was actually still alive far closer to our lifetimes.
Chinese scientists discover the moon didn't die as long ago as we thought
Samples taken from China’s Chang’e vessel reveals that the moon’s volcanic surface didn't die as long ago as we thought. The crew explored a section of the lunar surface known as Oceanus Procellarum. This area is believed to have housed massive volcanic lakes billions of years ago.
The lakes of Oceanus Procellarum have since died into solid basalt rock. However, this solidified, ancient lava can be dated using a combination of isotope dating and lunar crater chronology. After dating the samples taken from the primordial lake, it's been stated that the moon's volcanic period was longer lasting than everyone believed.
Scientists now believe that the Oceanus Procellarum was still active at least 2 billion years ago. For comparison, bacteria thrived and lived on Earth around 3.7 billion years ago. As Earth was stabilising, the Oceanus Procellarum flowed.
Why is this surprising?
Our moon is far smaller than others in the solar system. As small lunar bodies are believed to cool faster than larger ones, the life cycle of our moon is especially surprising. Via Futurism, Australian geologist Alexander Nemchin reveals that this discovery changes everything we understand about the satellite.
"The expectation is that the moon is so small that it will probably be dead very quickly after formation. This young sample contradicts this concept, and in some way, we need to rethink our view of the moon a little bit, or maybe quite a lot.”
Understanding the life of the moon is key to understanding its relationship to our planet. It’s commonly believed that the lunar surface is a part of the proto-earth, knocked free after a primordial collision with Theia. Additionally, this research will help us to understand other bodies out in space.