Astronomers have discovered the first molecule of oxygen in deep space, in the region of the Orion Nebula. This study, which was done with the Herschel Space Observatory, has prompted researchers to continue the search in other star-forming regions.
Herschel is a project of the European Space Agency and makes observations in the infrared range of light. It is first confirmed the presence of molecular oxygen (a molecule of two oxygen atoms) in the space. Although this phenomenon has been forecast, he, nevertheless, very puzzled astronomers.
"Oxygen was discovered in 1770, but it took mankind 230 years to finally say with certainty that this very simple molecule exists in space," - said lead author Paul Goldsmith, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
As told Goldsmith, the oxygen contained in the particles of ice that forms around small dust particles in space. The amount of molecular oxygen increases when the heat is forming stars in the nebula heats the ice particles, creating a dense gas clouds.
"It becomes clear where all that time could hide oxygen," - said Goldsmith about the fact that the oxygen molecule is so rarely encountered in space.
The study, published in the journal Astrophysical Journal, offers hope that the search for molecular oxygen is not over and there is still a lot of amazing discoveries. The history of the origin of this third most common element in the universe that makes up almost a third of the air in the world, is still a mystery to scientists who will continue to try to solve it, including by Herschel.
"In theory, we should find a lot of oxygen atoms in molecular form, but previous studies have failed to detect it," - said Goldsmith. "We have not found it in large quantities, and it’s unclear why it was formed and preserved in these regions. Universe still holds many secrets."