Friday, 22 February, 2019


Chang'e-4 Records Unexpectedly Low Temperatures on Far Side of the Moon

Image courtesy of NASA Image courtesy of NASA
Kristine Garrett | 02 February, 2019, 14:13

China's lunar probe Chang'e-4 has woken up from a two-week hibernation on the far side of the moon - and it's colder than scientists had predicted.

It takes the moon 27 days to rotate; it also takes the same amount of time for the moon to orbit around the Earth once. The rest mode was necessary due to the frigid nighttime temperatures on the lunar far side, which plunged as low as -310 degrees Fahrenheit.

The static lander, which launched on 7 December, touched down at 10:26 am Beijing time on 3 January in the South Pole-Aitken basin.

China's Chang'e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon Thursday, becoming the first spacecraft soft-landing on the moon's uncharted side never visible from Earth.

As a result of the tidal locking effect, the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, and it always faces Earth with the same side.

"That's probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon. We still need more careful analysis", Zhang added. Previously, the Chinese scientists had no data on exactly how cold it could be.

This is much colder than temperatures recorded by previous missions to the moon by the United States, which were limited to the moon's near side.

The lander, which returned mesmeric footage of the landing, will begin observations with the low‐frequency radio spectrometer (LFS) while the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND) instrument developed in Germany will measure levels of radiation and seek to detect evidence of water.

The temperature was lower than conditions reported by US missions to the near side of the moon, according to Chang'e-4 mission director Zhang He, speaking with China's state-owned news agency Xinhua.

At the end of 2013, China launched Chang'e-3, the country's first spacecraft to soft-land on the moon. During the first lunar-day period, the Chang 'e-4 lander and the rover successfully completed their engineering tasks, and the scientific payloads successfully started up.

Both rover and lander carry radioisotope heat sources to prevent them from freezing entirely during the long lunar nights. "It was really thrilling", said Li Chunlai, deputy director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China and commander-in-chief of the ground application system of Chang'e-4.

NASA's Curiosity rover also adopts this power technology, freeing it from the sunshine, sand and dust restrictions that have affected its predecessors Opportunity and Spirit, he explained.

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