‘Mystery hut’ on the far side of the moon

Moon horizon with cube.
The object known as the cube or mystery hut can be seen here on the moon’s horizon. What is Yutu 2’s ‘mystery hut’? Image via CNSA.

China’s Yutu 2 rover has been crawling across the lunar surface since landing in Von Kármán crater on the far side of the moon on January 3, 2019. On December 3, 2021, it logged a strange entry in its Yutu No. 2 Driving Diary. It spied a cube-shaped object on the horizon and nicknamed it the ‘mystery hut.’ The Chinese website Our Space publishes the diary and is affiliated with the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Additionally, the media outlet CNET picked up the story on December 5, with following on December 6.

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Yutu 2’s ‘mystery hut’: a cube-shaped oddity

CNSA gave the cube the informal nickname of the ‘mystery hut.’ Don’t take it literally that it’s an actual hut. They estimate the cube at approximately 262 feet (80 m) from the rover’s location on its “36th night” at the end of November 2021. It’s perched just inside the edge of a crater almost due north of that location.

Black and white photo with blue and white text above and below it.
Google-translated screenshot from the Yutu No. 2 Driving Diary, published on Our Space on December 3, 2021. Image via Our Space.
Grey terrain with many craters and an annotated square and arrow shape.
Orbital view from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of the Chang’e 4 lander (in square) and the ‘mystery hut’ object (arrow) on the edge of a crater about 260 feet (80 meters) away. Location of the object was possibly verified by space journalist Andrew Jones on Twitter. Image via NASA/ GSFC/ Arizona State University/ LROC.
Grey terrain with many craters.
Zoomed-in orbital view from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of what may be the ‘mystery hut’ on the edge of the crater (small bright spot). Image via NASA/ GSFC/ Arizona State University/ LROC.

Notably, it appears to be roughly cube-shaped, although it is difficult to determine the true shape due to the small size of the object in the image. Right now, it is only a few pixels wide. There seems to be a dark spot in the middle of the object, or it may be two smaller objects close together.

Taking a closer look at the mystery hut

The rover team, of course, wants to get a closer look at the object, and Yutu 2 will now start driving toward it. Rovers on the moon and Mars are slow, however, and it will take about 2-3 lunar days (2-3 Earth months) to get there. A lunar day is the period of time for Earth’s moon to complete one rotation on its axis with respect to the sun. That’s about 27 Earth days, 7 hours, 43 minutes and 12 seconds to complete one orbit.

Space journalist Andrew Jones in Finland also tweeted about the discovery:

He also may have verified the specific location to me on Twitter. The object can possibly be seen in orbital images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) as a small bright dot on the edge of the crater, almost due north of the rover and about the right distance away. That hasn’t been fully confirmed yet, though.

So, what is it?

At this point, it’s hard to tell for sure, but previous moon exploration would suggest it is most likely a large boulder. Such rocky blocks are common, leftover from crater-producing impacts. The cubic shape might be real, or could be partially an artifact of the relatively low resolution of the image. Ultimately, only closer images will show the true identity of the object.

If it did turn out to be something unnatural, that would, obviously, be a game-changer. Searching for ancient relics of alien civilizations is something scientists are starting to take more seriously. Such artifacts could be on the moon, Mars, or any number of asteroids or other objects in the solar system. The SETA project (Search for Extraterrestrial Artifacts), announced earlier this year, also advocates searching for such evidence.

Mechanical rover on grey regolith, with wheel tracks behind it.
The Yutu-2 rover as seen from the Chang’e 4 lander, in early January 2019. Image via CNSA/ CLEP/ The Planetary Society.

Yutu 2 and Chang’e 4

The Chang’e 4 spacecraft took the Yutu 2 rover to the lunar surface. It landed in the Von Kármán crater on the far side of the moon on January 3, 2019. It’s the fourth Chinese moon mission to date. Yutu 2 is the second Chinese rover to drive on the moon.

In July 2019, Yutu 2 also discovered a gel-like substance that scientists later identified to most likely be glass from a meteorite impact.

With all this in mind, even if the hut turns out to be ‘just’ a boulder, it will still be of great scientific interest to the scientists involved. Such pieces of lunar real estate can provide valuable clues about the moon and its geological history.

Dark rocky terrain with bright specks in the center.
Image from China’s Yutu-2 rover in 2019, showing the bright specks of material resembling impact glass in the center of a small crater. Formerly, Chinese media were reporting this substance as gel-like. This image is the enhanced, high-contrast version, showing the bright specks in some detail. Image via CNSA/ CLEP/

Bottom line: China’s Yutu 2 rover on the far side of the moon has spotted a roughly cube-shaped object on the horizon. What is Yutu 2’s ‘mystery hut’?

Via Yutu No. 2 Driving Diary (translated from Chinese)


December 10, 2021

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