The birth of our universe is one of humanity’s greatest concerns… even though it all happened over thirteen billion years ago. Scientists and enthusiasts worldwide just can’t stop wondering how it happened and where did it all start. They say that you never forget your first, but it seemed for a long time as if our universe forgot its first molecule.
The helium hydride ion (HeH+) as it is commonly called, is a conglomeration of leftovers from the Big Bang, consisting of just a helium atom alongside and a hydrogen nucleus (a proton). Scientists were positive that it should have been detectable all around the cosmos, but many decades passed and they were unable to spot it anywhere. An experiment dating back to 1925 managed to create some helium hydride ions, therefore scientists had solid proof that the molecule at least exists.
Detection of the molecule
Earlier this year, in April, an international team of scientists and astronomers detailed how they managed to use SOFIA, the flying observatory to spot HeH+ molecules located within a gas cloud which is officially referred to as planetary nebula NGC 7027, which is about 2,900 light-years away from our planet.
The authors of the study wrote that the “chemistry of the universe began with this ion”. They are very pleased with the findings, as their publication reads: “The unambiguous detection reported here brings a decades-long search to a happy ending at last”.