An international team of astrophysicists using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) stratospheric observatory discovered a molecule in the planetary nebula NGC 7027, which formed shortly after the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago.

A full report on the study is presented in the journal Nature, and it is briefly described on the NASA website. We are talking about the ion of helium hydride (HeH +), formed from helium atoms and hydrogen.

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It is believed that this is the first type of molecules that have appeared in the universe. By the way, the possibility of their existence was proven in the laboratory in 1925.

In the 1970s, astrophysical models were created, proving that these molecules may be present in planetary nebulae. And only now for the first time managed to detect such a molecule in space.

It was found using the SOFIA, the world's largest stratospheric observatory, located on a Boeing 747SP aircraft with a high-resolution spectrometer. It was he who recorded in real time "helium hydride signal".

“This molecule was hidden in the nebula,” says Harold York, director of the SOFIA Science Center in Silicon Valley (California). “So we needed to find the right tools for monitoring. Only SOFIA was able to do it perfectly.”

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According to scientists, helium and hydrogen were first combined about 100 thousand years after the Big Bang. So a molecule called helium hydride was created.

Theoretically, it should be present in the modern universe. However, until now it has never been found in space.

By the way, the molecule was discovered in the nebula NGC 7027, located at a distance of 3000 light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Cygnus. It contains the remains of a dead star, resembling the sun, which is surrounded by a dense shell.

According to scientists, the discovery confirms a key part of the basic understanding of the simple chemistry of the early Universe and will allow us to explain how over the course of billions of years it has turned into a modern, complex chemistry.

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