China has been operating a rover, the first to explore the moon’s far side, known as Yutu 2. The rover arrived at the moon attached to the Chang’e 4 lander. Yutu 2 resumed its exploration activities on February 6 after being forced to hibernate during the extremely cold lunar night. The rover has made an interesting discovery on the moon’s surface that Chinese scientists call a milestone.
Mission scientists and the rover drive team discovered an elongated rock that is worth closer inspection. The team says it plans to do a close approach and analysis on the rock using the Visible and Near-infrared Imaging Spectrometer instrument aboard Yutu 2. That instrument detects light scattered and reflected off materials to learn details on their makeup.
Scientists have used the instrument to investigate other rocks and regolith samples along the rover’s path through the Von Karman crater. So far, those investigations revealed interesting melted glass specimens and material that potentially came from the lunar mantle. The interesting spiral rock the rover has discovered appears to have a shard-like shape and is sticking out of the ground, making it unusual.
Since the rock is still in a shard-like shape and features a pronounced ridge near the rock’s edge, scientists believe it’s geologically young. Stress from impacts and thermal cycling, along with other forms of weathering on the moon’s surface, would overtime break rocks down into roughly spherical shapes. Scientists do have guesses on how the rock formed.
The most likely theory is that its impact ejecta from a nearby crater. Scientists also believe that a rock of the shape could have been created via a process known as spallation, where impact fragments of rock are blown off the nearby surface without experiencing the same sort of shock pressure the immediate impact area undergoes. Further investigations on the unusual rock are planned.