Scientists have long suspected that after about 100000 years after the Big Bang, helium and hydrogen combined to form the first molecule, helium hydride. This helped the universe begin to cool, which led to the formation of stars. However, despite decades of searching, scientists could not find helium hydride in space. Until now. Now helium hydride has been found in the NGC 7027 nebula with the help of an extremely clever invention.
Helium hydride: witness the birth of the first stars
NASA used its Stratospheric Observatoryfor infrared astronomy (SOFIA) to find this ancient molecule. Scientists found it in NGC 7027, a planetary nebula (the remains of a star like our sun), 3,000 light-years away. The discovery proves that helium hydride can exist in space and this confirms the theory of the chemistry of the early universe and its evolution. The results were published in Nature.
This discovery also demonstrates the powerThe latest NASA technology. SOFIA is the world's largest air observatory. In fact, it is a modified Boeing 747SP that returns after each flight. This allows NASA to add new tools as they become available. The recent update of the receiver at terahertz frequencies (GREAT) helped to discover, in fact, the presence of helium hydride in space. Scientists tuned the instrument to the frequency of the molecule and conducted a search in NGC 7027 - that the molecule might be in this nebula, began to be suspected back in the 1970s. As the director of the SOFIA Science Center Harold York said in a press release, the molecule was always there - we simply did not have enough of the right tools to find it.
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