Lunar Glass Reveals Matching Impacts with Earth

Sep 30, 2022 | Asteroids, Daily Space, Earth, Moon

Lunar Glass Reveals Matching Impacts with Earth
IMAGE: The Chang’e-5 return capsule containing lunar soil samples. CREDIT: Chinese National Space Agency

Research into impact events doesn’t only involve craters here on Earth. A new study in Science Advances analyzed lunar glass brought back by the Chang’e-5 sample return mission and found that what we thought were just major events on Earth were actually accompanied by smaller impacts on the Moon.

Researchers studied the glass beads, which were up to two billion years old (sound familiar?), using a variety of techniques including microscopic analysis, numerical models, and geological surveys. Lead author Alexander Nemchin notes: We found that some of the age groups of the lunar glass beads coincide precisely with the ages of some of the largest terrestrial impact crater events, including the Chicxulub impact crater responsible for the dinosaur extinction event. The study also found that large impact events on Earth such as the Chicxulub crater 66 million years ago could have been accompanied by a number of smaller impacts. If this is correct, it suggests that the age-frequency distributions of impacts on the Moon might provide valuable information about the impacts on the Earth or inner solar system.

Next up, the team wants to compare the Chang’e-5 data with other lunar soil samples and crater ages. Maybe we can even further constrain when the Vredefort impact event occurred.

More Information

Curtin University press release

Constraining the formation and transport of lunar impact glasses using the ages and chemical compositions of Chang’e-5 glass beads,” Tao Long et al., 2022 September 28, Science Advances

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