NASA Spots 1st Molecule of the Universe

The scientists have detected the first molecule to ever form from stray atoms in the universe. The first such molecule was helium hydride, a combination of helium and hydrogen. The discovery is a first step in unlocking the mystery of the universe’s chemistry.

About the Discovery

  • The research was published in the journal Nature.
  • The researchers used the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) SOFIA, the world’s largest airborne observatory, to detect helium hydride in NGC 7027, a planetary nebula about 3,000 light-years away from Earth.

SOFIA

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope.

Scientists for long had held that around 100,000 years after the big bang, helium and hydrogen combined to make a molecule called helium hydride for the first time. But scientists could not find HeH+ in space and it was unproven.  The discovery brought a long search to a happy ending and eliminates doubts about our understanding of the underlying chemistry of the early universe.

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