Ancient space molecule detected

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brian livesey
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Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2006 11:05 am
Location: Lancashire

Ancient space molecule detected

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The positively charged molecule, helium hydride, is regarded as the first molecule to have bonded as the Universe cooled following the big bang. The molecule, despite it being predicted in gas clouds, has remained elusive until now.
Astrophysicists have detected the molecule in a small planetary nebula, 3000 lys distance, in the constellation of Cygnus.
Primeval big bang helium hydride was produced in a different process from that in the planetary nebula ( found in the rings of gas emanating from the central white dwarf star ), but the detection strengthens the theory about "the dawn of chemistry".
Dr Jerome Loreau, a helium hydride expert at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, who was not a member of the research team, said that helium hydride "is the first molecule ever to form in the Universe , about 380,000 years after the big bang, in an era known as the recombination epoch." He added that the molecule later led to the formation of stars and galaxies. "It is therefore exciting to have finally observed one of the building blocks of the molecular universe," he said.
A difficulty in detecting the molecule is that its presence in space is almost obscured by overlapping "signatures" from a molecule of hydrogen and carbon. Helium hydride was detected at high altitude above most of the atmosphere's water vapour from a modified Boeing 747SP, fitted with the Sofia Telescope. It was a joint project between Nasa and the German Aerospace Centre.

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