If you were to look at the universe as it was more than 13.8 billion years ago, you would see a completely different landscape. At that time space was filled with essential one-atom elements and molecules were quite rare. It would take another 100 million years before the first stars appeared.
Data suggests that the first molecules appear within 100,000 years after the Big Bang shaped the universe into existence. The very first one involved a union between atoms of helium and hydrogen, which were the lightest elements in the universe in that period. The result was the first molecule in the universe, which was called helium hydride ion (also known as HeH+).
A team of ambitious researchers has managed to track traces of the molecule in space. The discovery is quite important since the formation of this molecule is deemed to be the first significant step in the development of the universe as we know it today.
First Molecule Which Appeared in the Universe Found by Researchers
The same molecule served as a primary foundation for the appearance of other molecules, more advanced and heavy in comparison to their humble precursor. The pinnacle of progress was achieved almost 3.5 billion years ago when life, both single-celled and multicellular, appeared on Earth. While HeH+ played a valuable role in the development of the universe researchers were limited to laboratory studies since no traces were found in space.
Many researchers were puzzled by these since the lack of tangible proof projected a shade of doubt on some astronomical theories. The researchers used advanced HeH+ models to scan the gas clouds released by distant dying stars. As a star heads towards the supernova stage, the conditions around it become similar to those which were encountered at the beginning of the universe.
The researchers used an airborne observatory called SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) molecular traces of HeH+ were identified in a nebula called NGC 7027. The study was published in a peer-reviewed journal.