Scientists say China's Yutu-2 rover has found glass on the far side of the Moon. While tiny glass beads have been found in lunar samples before, the ones found by Yutu-2 are much bigger and translucent.

The discovery was made by a member of the scientific team. The beads were found by looking at the images taken by the rover. Since the rover doesn't have sampling capabilities and is not a sample return mission like it, there is no data on the glass beads.

In the paper published in the Science Bulletin, Xiao said taking into account the location where the glass was found, in the South Pole Atkien basin at the lunar farside, and the local context of what is known about that region, they believe.

There are several translucent spherical and dumbbell-shaped glassy globules that range in size, but are as large as 4 centimeters. They were found on the surface of the Moon and are transparent to the naked eye.

Two confirmed (upper row) and two possible (bottom row) glass globules found along the route of Yutu-2 (Image taken by the Yutu-2 rover; courtesy of China National Space Administration).

The glass beads are quite compelling, as you can see from the images.

The team wrote in their paper that the Moon has transparent and translucent glasses that are less than 1mm in diameter.

In the Apollo samples, glass beads were found across several missions, but they were very small. The beads were volcanic in origin and have different colors depending on their chemical makeup. Green beads were found in lunar soil collected by astronauts on the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, and the orange soil of Apollo 17 in 1972 was colored by glass beads.

The cooling of regolith that has experienced extreme heat formed the volcanic and impact glasses on the Moon. The history of impact cratering andlunar volcanism can be recorded with the help of glass spherules.

Orange soil (from volcanic glass beads) is clearly visible in this image from Apollo 17. Credit: NASA

In the case of the Apollo 17 orange glass, analysis back on Earth revealed volcanic glass formed when molten lava from the interior of the Moon erupted, some 3 to 4 billion years ago. As the lava became exposed to the vacuum, it separated out into tiny fragments and froze, forming tiny beads of volcanic glass in orange and black colors. The beads had measurable water content.

The glass found by Yutu-2 is different, say the researchers, and they conclude that they are most likely impact glasses.

Xiao and his team believe that the glass would be abundant across the lunar highlands, providing promising sampling targets for future missions that could reveal the early impact history of the Moon.

The Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin was the site of the soft landing of Chang e-4 on January 3, 2019. Yutu-2 has traveled more than 1,000 meters.

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