An important discovery took place recently. Scientists detected in space the first type of molecular block. Helium hydride (HeH+) is the first ever molecule formed in the universe. The molecule was discovered in the planetary nebula NGC 7027 where it is formed by a white dwarf star.
A telescope located in the atmosphere of the Earth was the one used to make this discovery. The team was led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. The search for the molecule started back in the 1970s, so this is a revolutionary discovery.
“The chemistry of the Universe began with HeH+,” explained lead author and astrophysicist Rolf Güsten, from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), in Germany. “The lack of definitive evidence of its very existence in interstellar space has been a dilemma for astronomy for a long time.”
The first molecule formed in the Universe right after Big Bang
When the elements produced by the Big Bang started to combine, ions of helium hydride were formed, which means that this is the first molecular bond in the universe.
Researchers tried to discover this molecule in the universe, but there were no successful results until now. It appears that the reason why scientists did not find HeH+ until now is that the spectrometer technology used was way too limited. New technology made this discovery possible.
“The discovery of HeH+ is a dramatic and beautiful demonstration of Nature’s tendency to form molecules,” declared paper author and molecular astrophysicist David Neufeld from Johns Hopkins University. “Despite the unpromising ingredients that are available, a mixture of hydrogen with the unreactive noble gas helium, and a harsh environment at thousands of degrees Celsius — a fragile molecule forms.”