The universe today is a complex web of varied atoms, molecules, stars, and galaxies.
However, when it was younger, there were not many atoms in the universe. Scientists believe that just after the Big Bang, there were very few atoms in the universe and Hydrogen and Helium were prominent among them. They believe that as these atoms fused to form molecules, it would have resulted in the universe cooling down and taking the shape that it has today. So, they inferred that about 14 billion years ago, these Hydrogen and Helium atoms must have reacted and formed a molecule called helium hydride – the first ever molecule in the universe.
They further believed that as the universe cooled, hydrogen reacted with helium hydride, creating molecular hydrogen, which was responsible for the creation of the first stars.
However, the molecule helium hydride was never found in the universe until now.
Recently, though, after decades of searching, scientists have found this molecule in space. Using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) – the largest air-borne observatory – scientists found this molecule in a planetary nebula called NGC 7027.
SOFIA is a joint venture between NASA and the German Aerospace Center. According to NASA, it essentially is a Boeing 747SP jetliner that is modified to carry a 106-inch diameter.
This discovery gives some key insights into our basic understanding of chemistry and of the universe as how we know it today.
Isn’t this a wonderful discovery that helps us understand what the building blocks of the modern day universe are? Let us know your views on the same.0