New diamond-like mineral discovered in Chang'e-5 lunar sample in China

New diamond-like mineral discovered in Chang’e-5 lunar sample in China

China discovers a new lunar mineral, named Changesite-(Y). /Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology

China discovers a new lunar mineral, named Changesite-(Y). /Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology

Say hello to Changesite-(Y) – a brand new mineral that was discovered by Chinese scientists in lunar samples brought back by China’s Chang’e-5 lunar probe in December 2020.

The new mineral, which looks like crystal like a diamond, has been certified by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA).

The Changesite-(Y) discovery was jointly released by the China National Space Administration and the China Atomic Energy Authority on Friday, a day before China’s traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, or the day of the moon.

Discovered by scientists from the Beijing Uranium Geology Research Institute (BRIUG), Changesite-(Y) is the first new lunar mineral discovered and identified by China, and the sixth new lunar mineral known to this day.

This makes China the third country in the world to discover a new lunar mineral, signifying a significant scientific achievement made by the country in the field of space science.

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What is Changesite-(Y)?

Changesite-(Y) is a new type of phosphate mineral formed as a columnar crystal, found in grains of lunar basalt.

The BRIUG research team isolated a single crystal particle from it with a diameter of about 10 microns (less than one-tenth the diameter of an average human hair), successfully analyzed its crystal structure, and confirmed as a new mineral.

Lunar sample under the microscope. /Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology

Lunar sample under the microscope. /Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology

Two other finds

Two other major research results were also announced in the press release.

China has for the first time determined the concentration of helium-3, a future fusion energy source, from Chang’e-5 lunar soil samples and its extraction parameters.

This provides fundamental scientific data for lunar resource assessment and exploration.

In addition, the morphological characteristics of lunar soil particles have been identified through extensive studies, providing the scientific basis for studying how lunar soil formed.

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Simply put, the lunar soil is our gateway to the ancient secrets of the moon, earth, and even the sun.

For example, China’s Change-5 lunar samples were collected from an area of ​​basalt on the moon known as Oceanus Precellarum. This is a region formed by a lunar volcanic eruption billions of years ago. This means that these samples come from deep within the moon in ancient times. When volcanoes were still active on the Moon, they were considered “alive” with a running “dynamo”.

Currently they are considered “dead”, as they have been burned and cooled. Lunar samples can reveal when and how the cooling process happened, as well as something about the future of our home Earth.

Moreover, these samples contain secrets of the sun. Unlike the Earth with its protective magnetic field, the Moon was exposed to the bombardment of the solar wind. Thus, the particles ejected from the sun will be buried in different layers of lunar soil.

The news was jointly released by the China National Space Administration and the China Atomic Energy Authority on Friday, a day before the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Day.

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is said to be at its fullest and brightest. The moon is essential to the beliefs and traditions of the festival as classical folklore. It is well known that the moon goddess Chang’e and her rabbit companion Yutu – are the two names adopted for China’s lunar missions.

(CGTN’s Yang Zhao and Wang Chulun also contributed to this story.)

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