Chinese rover finds lunar nights 'colder than expected'

January 31, 2019 by Roland Jackson
The freezing night-time temperatures were recorded by the Chinese Chang'e-4 probe after it became active on Wednesday China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS/AFP/File

China's lunar lander has woken from a freezing fortnight-long hibernation to find night-time temperatures on the moon's dark side are colder than previously thought, the national space agency said Thursday.

The Chang'e-4 probe—named after a Chinese moon goddess—made the first ever soft landing on the on January 3, a major step in China's ambitions to become a space superpower.

Temperatures on the moon's surface plummeted to minus 190 degrees celsius (-310 degrees Fahrenheit) during the probe's first lunar night, which "was colder than scientists expected," the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

The night-time temperatures were recorded by the Chinese probe after it became active on Wednesday, following a slumber that lasted for about two earth weeks.

They were lower than those recorded by previous US missions to the near side of the moon, Zhang He, executive director of the Chang'e-4 mission, told Xinhua news agency.

"That's probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon," he said.

A rover released from the probe—dubbed Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit) after the moon goddess's pet—also resumed operations "as planned" on January 29 and will perform experiments in the Von Karman Crater, CNSA said in a statement.

Chang'e-4 is equipped with instruments developed by scientists from Sweden, Germany and China.

It is tasked with studying the lunar environment, and the interaction between solar wind and the moon's surface.

The probe will now continue with it's experiments, CNSA said.

Scientific instruments on board China's previous Chang'e-3 mission, sent in late 2013, have withstood over 60 lunar nights and are still in operation, Xinhua said.

Explore further: China moon rover 'Jade Rabbit' wakes from 'nap'

Related Stories

Cottoning on: Chinese seed sprouts on moon

January 15, 2019

A small green shoot is growing on the moon in an out-of-this-world first after a cotton seed germinated on board a Chinese lunar lander, scientists said Tuesday.

China envisions moon base after far-side success

January 14, 2019

China will seek to establish an international lunar base one day, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the Chinese space agency said Monday, weeks after landing a rover on the moon's far side.

Recommended for you

Light-based production of drug-discovery molecules

February 18, 2019

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells are widely studied for the conversion of solar energy into chemical fuels. They use photocathodes and photoanodes to "split" water into hydrogen and oxygen respectively. PEC cells can work ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) Jan 31, 2019
"They were lower than those recorded by previous US missions to the near side of the moon ..
That's probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon"

When would scientists knew, that there are effects of action Earth on the Moon (binary effects)..
not rated yet Jan 31, 2019
Realistically, at most there can be a modest expectation that any of the biology specimens survived the deep freeze.

Probably be at least a week before the capsules can safely warm up to be observed.

Will any of the spores, seeds or insect eggs respond? Even if only momentary life-signs?

If all the official experiments are dead? Could there be any measurable signs of decay? Caused by stow-away unofficial micro-organisms?

Even the simplest sign of rot?
Would qualify as "Noble Rot"!
A boost for the speculations that Earth-Life might be able to survive, in limited protective environments, away from the Earth.

But, even if those all fail?
Failure can teach you many lessons. Discovering now what the basic requirements we will have to meet for future explorations?

Going to save a lot of resources, funding & brain-power for planning future missions.
not rated yet Jan 31, 2019
second post due to mouse double contacting...need to replace mouse with anothr trak ball.
3 / 5 (3) Jan 31, 2019
The answer to that is im plain sight and we only need look.........up! The Moon is tidally locked to Earth. Even the Earth's roration slows continually because of the Moon's tidal effect as well. The Moon gets Earth shine CONTINUALLY on ithe Moon's NEAR SIDE to Earth, so in this light is energy and therefore heat, warming the 'Earth side' of the moon. The far side of the moon gets NO befefits from this inasmuch as the paucity of the lunar almosst non atmosphere for transport. So when it gets 'dark' on the far side,, it is t rully pitch black. Black cat at midnight dark. Temperaturews plunge a LOT worse than clear nights in North Dakota lately.
1 / 5 (3) Jan 31, 2019
"That's probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon,"

It's probably due to the lack of earth shine. So much for the Chinese being upfront about anything we don't already know.
5 / 5 (3) Jan 31, 2019
At a -190C when astronauts stay for weeks creates problems staying warm
the nearest shop is only 250,000 miles away
there's going to be some serious food and fuel dumping before we do this hop and skip
good practice for the next hop and skip, long jump or Mars
5 / 5 (4) Jan 31, 2019
My first thought was earthshine, but a bit of math says otherwise.
The earth is about 3.5 times the diameter of the moon, or ~13 times the area, and has about 3 times the albedo, so a ful earth is about 40 times as bright as a full moon.
But sunlight is about 400,000 times as bright as full-moonlight, so a full earth is only about 1/10,000 times as bright as sunlight, and provides roughly 1/10,000 as much heat.

A full earth will be impressively bright by nighttime standards, but you won't get much warmth from it...

(I once felt the warmth of moonlight at the focus of a 52" parabolic mirror, and I could barely tell, with my eyes closed, when my had passed through the focus).
not rated yet Feb 01, 2019
oh jeebus save us from the lunatics...

Reflected visible light includes very limited heat-energy.
Whatever internal heat for Luna? Is a result of the tidal stresses caused by the Earth's gravity as the Moon orbits. With lesser contributions from the Sun & Jupiter. All Gravity, all the time. It may lessen but never ceases.

As for the dime-novel secrets of Ming the Merciless?
If you do not know, what there is to be known? How can you claim to know that the Chinese are concealing any knowledge from you?

Heckfire & shuckcorn. If it was me handling their PR account?
I'd be obfuscating like crazy!
Just for the laughs.

To sucker the lrbig-nose loons into a frantic frenzy of paranoid paralysis of intellect.

Then I'd surreptitiously wikileak a smudged photo of a pie-pan half-buried in what looks like Luna regolith.

All those headlines! As the apes go shit their knickers. You just can't buy that sort of PR. You gotta create it to earn that bonus!
5 / 5 (2) Feb 01, 2019
A "cool" finding.

As already noted - and estimated! - by others, earth shine doesn't contribute much, and so the primary difference is in the soil reflectance and heat capacity et cetera - as the article quotes expert note.

would scientists knew, that there are effects of action Earth on the Moon (binary effects).

Tidal (or the discussed optical) effects doesn't mean much for temperatures.

The scientists *would* know, they are the experts and their claims will be criticized by peers. As opposed to an unreferenced throw away comment from some non-expert, that has little information content and even less veracity.
not rated yet Feb 01, 2019
"... an unreferenced throw away comment from some non-expert, that has little information content and even less veracity. ..."

What a pity that I did not choose a career as a PR flack. I could be raking in the big bucks today as a spox fir the trumpsterfire white house.

Opportunity knocked I was probably passed out drunk.

What? What do you mean that's the trumpsjunior story? & he's already sold the rights to Faux entertainment for bail money?

Damn it! I let another one slip by... Story of my life.
1 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2019
Hmmmm, Jade Rabbit; surprised Ann Summers haven't picked up on that yet.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.