Strange Science: Gel on the Dark Side of the Moon?

News came out recently that the Chinese lunar probe had located a mysterious shiny gel on the dark side of the moon. But as other scientists looked into this claim, it seems that it may have been a translation error.

Since the moon has no atmosphere, no biology, no liquids on the surface, and no volcanic activity, it’s not possible for a gel to exist naturally on the moon. However, there is a possibility that something glassy or with a gel-like lustre could exist on the moon, as a result of an asteroid or other object striking the moon. If an object hit the moon at a high velocity, “it would have generated exceedingly high temperatures and pressures at the impact site, melting rock at unfathomable speeds and leaving behind a myriad of molten pools. Exposed to the harsh, frigid environs of space, these would have cooled remarkably quickly, forming a glass.”

As for the translation error, it seems likely that Google Translate provided “gel” as a translation of a Chinese word used in the reporting on this discovery. But the word more accurately means “glassy,” “shiny,” or “glossy.” There’s also precedent for this being lunar glass, based on similar phenomenon observed by Apollo 17 astronauts.

You can read more about the reinterpretation of these possibly erroneous reports here.

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