NASA Scientists Discovered Most Ancient Molecule in Space


1Most Ancient Molecule in Space

We are going to discuss most ancient molecule in space discovered by NASA. This discovery confirms the theory of the early stages of the Universe.

Astrophysicists first recorded helium hydride (HeH⁺) in space – the first molecular compound that appeared after the Big Bang. This finding confirms theories adopted in modern science about the early stages of the Universe. 

Immediately after the Big Bang, only hydrogen, helium, and trace amounts of lithium were in the Universe — all of them were in a state of plasma due to the high temperature. As matter rapidly expanded, it cooled, making it possible to form atoms and molecules. The first of the molecules that appeared was helium hydride, a compound of a neutral helium atom and a hydrogen ion. It appeared about 100 thousand years after the Big Bang, when the temperature was about 4000 kelvins. 

Helium hydride readily reacted with any neutral molecules or atoms — because of this, after a relatively short time, this substance was almost gone. The result of its interaction with hydrogen atoms is molecular hydrogen – the basis for the further development of the Universe.

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In laboratory conditions on Earth, helium hydride was obtained in 1925, but so far scientists have not been able to obtain confirmation of its existence in space. The spectral lines of helium hydride are close to the spectral lines of a number of molecules of the earth’s atmosphere, which makes it almost impossible to identify it from the Earth. In the new study, a SOFIA flying observatory was used to collect data – a Boeing 747SP with a telescope mounted on it, which was shooting from a height of 13 kilometers.

The molecule was discovered in the  planetary nebula NGC 7027, located at a distance of three thousand light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Scientists sightingly looked for traces of the compound there, since the temperature conditions in NGC 7027 roughly correspond to the conditions under which helium hydride appeared after the Big Bang, and the radiation from the hot center of the nebula ionizes the surrounding substance — because of this, helium hydride does not break down, reacting with neutral atoms.



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