An intriguing cube-shaped object spotted on the far side of the moon has attracted the attention of scientists.
China’s Yutu 2 rover captured images of the mystery structure from around 260 feet away while navigating across the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the moon, reports Popular Science’s Margo Milanowski. Chinese scientists have already rerouted the rover to take a closer look, but it will take a few months for Yutu 2 to reach the bizarre lunar feature.
The shape was spotted on the horizon in November during the mission's 36th lunar day, according to a Yutu 2 diary published by Our Space, a Chinese language science outreach channel affiliated with the China National Space Administration. Our Space first described the object in a post last week, temporarily dubbing it a “mystery hut” (神秘小屋/shenmi xiaowu).
Since Yutu 2 spotted the “mystery hut,” scientists have changed the six-wheeled vehicle course to investigate the cube. The solar-powered rover will spend two to three lunar days—equivalent to two to three months time on Earth—traversing the lunar landscape to take a closer look, so we should have more clues shortly, reports Andrew Jones for Space.
The rover’s images immediately sparked debate as to what the cube-shaped object was and inspired humorous guesses. “Was it a home built by aliens after the crash landing? Or is it the pioneer spacecraft of the predecessors to explore the moon?” writes Our Space.
The "hut" may simply be a large boulder that’s been pushed up by meteor impact and taken on a geometric look in the low-resolution image. The blog post noted that there is an impact crater beside the mystery hut, further suggesting that the cube could just be an excavated lunar rock.
This latest discovery isn’t the first curious thing the Yutu 2 rover has seen since its arrival on the far side of the moon almost three years ago. In September 2019, the rover encountered a strange, gel-like substance that turned out to be melted rock fragments cemented together from extreme heat. This year, Yutu 2 spotted unusual shards sticking out from the lunar surface that turned out to be rocks launched by a meteor impact, reports Gizmodo’s George Dvorsky.
Whatever the cube-shaped object is, we will have to wait another few months before getting an answer—until then, it's fun to speculate on what the “mystery hut” could be.