Chang’e-5 samples suggest lunar meteorite impacts took place the same time as big Chicxulub impact

In analyzing lunar samples brought back by China’s Chang’e-5 Moon lander, Australian scientists have found evidence of lunar meteorite impacts that apparently took place the same time as big Chicxulub impact in the Yucatan 66 million years ago, thought by many scientists to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Their findings suggest that the frequency of meteorite impacts on the Moon may have been mirrored on Earth, and that major impact events on Earth were not stand-alone events and instead were accompanies by a series of smaller impacts. The study has been published in Science Advances.

“We combined a wide range of microscopic analytical techniques, numerical modelling, and geological surveys to determine how these microscopic glass beads from the Moon were formed and when,” says lead author Professor Alexander Nemchin, from the Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) in the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin University in Perth.

The data suggests two possibilities, neither of which is confirmed. First, the impacts could have occurred because a cluster of large objects hit both Earth and the Moon at the same time. Second, the impacts on the Moon could have been caused by objects thrown up from the Earth when the bigger impact occurred at Chicxulub.

Either way, the data suggests a greater and more complex interaction between events on the Earth and events on the Moon.