A Modified 747 Helped Evidence Of Atomic First Universe's Point Connection


Scientists have detected evidence of the earliest chemistry in the Universe, thanks to measurements taken from a telescope aboard a modified Boeing 747.

After the Big Bang, the Universe began to cool and atoms like hydrogen, helium and lithium began to form from the free particles. When the whole Universe reached a temperature of a few thousand degrees, these atoms should have begun to unite (otherwise we would not exist), and the theory of physics suggests that the first connection would have been an atom of helium connected to an atom. hydrogen atom. But the resulting helium hydride ion has never been found in space – until now, thanks to the Stratospheric Infrared Astronomy Observatory, or SOFIA.

"This was foreseen 30 or 40 years ago by the first chemical models"

The first author of the study, Rolf Güsten, from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, told Gizmodo.

Scientists first needed to check whether the Universe could create such a molecule. Researchers of the 1970s theorized that nearby plasmas in planetary nebulae, dying stars surrounded by expelled material, could contain helium hydride. But scientists have faced challenges to discover the molecule, questioning whether the molecule exists in space, according to the article published today in the journal Nature.

"Until very recently, there was no technology for this," explained Güsten. The wavelengths of light released by the molecule would be absorbed by Earth's atmosphere.

Geoffrey Blake, a professor at the California Institute of Technology who was not involved in the study, said Gizmodo that scientists stopped looking for the molecule at the beginning of the Universe – which means the distant Universe – because they could not even find it nearby.

But now, NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have a custom Boeing 747, SOFIA, which was prepared to conduct the research.

SOFIA flies between 38,000 and 45,000 feet, according to a NASA report, which is above 99 percent of the infrared-absorbing parts of the atmosphere. The researchers deployed an instrument in SOFIA called the German Astronomy Receiver at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT), and pointed it to the planetary nebula NGC 7027, known to offer scientists a host of other astrochemical discoveries. After three flights in May 2016 and some data analysis, the work revealed the presence of helium hydride molecules in the nebula.

These results demonstrated to the researchers that the Universe could indeed form the molecule by itself, and improved astronomers' understanding of the older eras after the Big Bang. It's a big deal.

"I would say this is probably the most important discovery yet made by the SOFIA observatory," said Mike Barlow, a professor at University College in London who was not involved with the survey and who reviewed the article. Gizmodo. He found the data compelling.

So, no, they have not discovered the oldest helium hydride, but now scientists may perhaps go back to looking for signature from more distant sources, Blake said. And it's good to know that research into the origins of chemistry has followed the right path. It is even cooler for the research to take place on board one of the region's less conventional telescopes.


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