The new mineral, named Changesite, after the Chinese goddess Chang’e, has been found in lunar debris brought back by a Chinese probe.
China’s Chang’e-5 mission brought a total of 1,731 grams of lunar samples to Earth by the end of 2020.
The China National Space Administration has announced the discovery of a new mineral from surface samples returned by the Chang’e 5 probe. Specifically, a single crystal was found by chance while they were using X-ray diffraction to study the lunar samples collected.
The mineral, in the form of a single crystal particle with a diameter of 10 microns, was manually separated by the researchers and then analyzed through a series of advanced mineralogical methods.
Named Changesite, in honor of the mythological Chinese goddess of the moon, it has become the first lunar mineral discovered and identified by Chinese scientists, making China the third nation in the world, after the United States and Russia, to have accomplished such a feat.
Other space minerals
The new mineral is the sixth space mineral discovered. This does not mean that this mineral is only on the Moon, but that it has not yet been discovered on Earth, as has happened with other minerals previously found both in lunar samples and in meteorites fallen on Earth.
For example, in samples returned by the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, three previously unknown minerals were discovered: armalcolite (named after the Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins), pyroxferroite, and tranquillityite. Years later, he was finally able to find ground samples of all of them. Perhaps one day samples of Changesite may be found on the Earth’s surface itself.
Be that as it may, the discovery of the new mineral will help researchers in their studies on the history and physical characteristics of the Moon, among other things, to provide more evidence of the main theory of the formation of our satellite: it was created from debris from a collision between Earth and a Mars-sized planetary body.