That "Moon cube" mystery? Scientists have an explanation

In December the world was hooked on the mystery of the odd-looking cube spotted on the Moon's surface by the Chinese rover Yutu-2. Now, a new post from the rover drivers on Chinese-language WeChat offers some explanations about the strange little cube.

With the massive public interest in the cube – not to mention its potential scientific value – the Yutu-2 rover headed straight for the structure once it woke up from its two-week sleep over the lunar night. The drivers say they wanted to examine the cube as much as possible even from a distance, as the terrain on the Moon is uneven and it will be difficult and time-consuming for the rover to travel to the cube itself.

The rover drivers found that they could tilt up the rover's image sensors in a "head up" posture which allowed the sensors to reach up to 30 meters (98ft) away. They also made some adjustments to the driving timetable to make the rover driving more efficient.

This has allowed the rover to approach closer to the mysterious object, and it is currently parked in a narrow crater while it waits for the Sun to return after the two-week lunar night so it can explore further. It also allowed the rover to get a better look at the cube.

What's up with the Moon shack

Alas, when seen up close, the cube turns out not to be cube-shaped or all that mysterious. According to the WeChat post, it appears to be a relatively small chunk of rock. It is near to an impact crater, so it could be a piece of debris that was thrown up when an object like a comet or asteroid impacted the Moon.

The drivers describe themselves as "a little disappointed" that the imposing-looking hut turned out to be much smaller when approached. But the team still had some fun, saying that they thought the rock looked like a rabbit with stones in front of it resembling carrots. You have to squint to see it, but it is thematically appropriate as the name of the rover, Yutu, means "Jade Rabbit."

Now, the Yutu-2 rover will continue exploring the Moon. The mission recently celebrated its third anniversary since landing, as the Chang'e 4 lander which contained the rover touched down on the Moon's surface on January 3, 2019.