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The first type of molecule formed in the universe detected in space after 100 years of search

Nebula NGC 7027

After hundred years of search, scientists have finally found the first type of molecule that was formed during the creation of the universe. 13 billion years ago, just after the big Bang, the universe was very hot and there were just few types of atoms mostly helium and hydrogen. There was no molecule, since the environment was not favourable for the formation of a molecule.  But when this young universe began to cool down, the first molecule, Helium hydride was formed through radiative association of protons.

First molecule in the universe discovered by SOFIA in nebula NGC 7027.
Rolf Gusten et al (Nature)

Helium hydride has never been found in space until now. It was first created in the lab in 1925 by coaxing helium to share electrons with hydrogen. But the existence of helium hydride in space remain undetected.  In 1970, scientist suggests that planetary nebula called NGC 7027 may be the right place to find this molecule. Nebula is a remnant of a what was once a sun-like star. But they could not find any due to lack of proper technology capable of detecting helium hydride.

In 2016 SOFIA, an upgraded telescope discovered the molecule for the first time. The confirmation of the presence of this molecule in the space proves how the first molecule was formed.

This story is published in Nature.

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