Universe's first molecule detected in the space
New Delhi : For the first time ever, the scientists have discovered an ancient type of molecule in our universe in space.
Helium hydride ion (HeH+) is believed to be the first molecule that was formed, almost 14 billion years ago, when falling temperatures in the young universe allowed recombination of the light elements produced in the Big Bang.
Scientists found that at that time ionised hydrogen and neutral helium atoms reacted to form HeH+.
The HeH+ has remained undetected till date as it escaped in astrophysical nebulae -- cloud of gas and dust in outer space.
Operating the GREAT far-infrared spectrometer onboard the flying observatory SOFIA, an international team reported unambiguous detection of the molecule towards the planetary nebula NGC 7027.
“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,” said Rolf Gusten from the MPIfR.
In the late 1970s, astro-chemical models suggested the possibility that HeH+ might exist at detectable abundances in local astrophysical nebulae, and would be most easily observed in so-called planetary nebula, ejected by Sun-like stars in the last stage of their lifetime.
The hard radiation field produced by the central white dwarf star with a temperature of more than 100,000 degrees drives ionisation fronts into the ejected envelope, where HeH+ is predicted to form.
The researchers are happy to have finally found the special molecule. It will now also allow us to better understand the formation and destruction of the universe.