The scientists have detected the first molecule to ever form from stray atoms in the universe. The first such molecule was helium hydride, a combination of helium and hydrogen. The discovery is a first step in unlocking the mystery of the universe’s chemistry.
Scientists for long had held that around 100,000 years after the big bang, helium, and hydrogen combined to make a molecule called helium hydride for the first time. But scientists could not find HeH+ in space and it was unproven. The discovery brought a long search to a happy ending and eliminates doubts about our understanding of the underlying chemistry of the early universe.
The researchers used the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) SOFIA, the world’s largest airborne observatory, to detect helium hydride in NGC 7027, a planetary nebula about 3,000 light-years away from Earth.