April has been a big month for science, and true to form, scientists aren’t resting on their laurels.
First image of a black hole? Please, it’s incredible but so early, April. I’ll raise you the discovery of the earliest Big Bang molecule in space.
Ok, I won’t do that personally, but a team of astronomers have detected the helium hydride ion in space which has long been proposed as the ‘first molecule’.
As reported by CNN the molecular ion was first demonstrated in a lab study nearly 100 years ago in 1925.
The initial breakthrough led to decades of searching for HeH+ in space to no avail until now.
The research findings were first published in Nature: International Journal of Science.
Rolf Güsten, study author and astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, said in a statement:
The chemistry of the universe began with HeH+. The lack of definitive evidence of its very existence in interstellar space has been a dilemma for astronomy for a long time.
David Neufeld, study co-author and professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Johns Hopkins University, added:
The discovery of HeH+ is a dramatic and beautiful demonstration of nature’s tendency to form molecules.
Despite the unpromising ingredients that are available, a mixture of hydrogen with the unreactive noble gas helium, and a harsh environment at thousands of degrees Celsius, a fragile molecule forms.
Remarkably, this phenomenon can not only be observed by astronomers but also understood using theoretical models that we have developed.
Researchers utilised SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, to make their incredible find.
SOFIA is a modified Boeing jet that can fly above the lower atmosphere, carrying a high-resolution spectrometer called GREAT.
The molecule was identified in the planetary nebula NGC 7027.
Science be praised!
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