This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Oxygen finally spotted in space

alt text
"Hidden" oxygen may be released from dust grains and ice in star-forming regions

One of astronomy's longest-running "missing persons" investigations has concluded: astronomers have found molecular oxygen in space.

While single atoms of oxygen have been found alone or incorporated into other molecules, the oxygen molecule - the one we breathe - had never been seen.

The Herschel space telescope spotted the molecules in a star-forming region in the constellation of Orion.

The find will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the cosmos, after hydrogen and helium. Its molecular form, with two atoms joined by a double bond, makes life on Earth possible - but this form had never definitively been seen in space.

A 2007 effort from the Swedish Odin telescope, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, claimed a discovery of oxygen in a nearby star-forming region, but the discovery could not be independently confirmed.

One possible location for the missing oxygen is locked onto dust grains and incorporated into water ice.

The team chose a star-forming region in the constellation Orion, believing that oxygen would be "baked off" from the ice and dust in a warmer, more turbulent part of space.

Instruments on the Herschel telescope, sensitive to infrared light, picked up small signatures of the elusive molecular oxygen.

"This explains where some of the oxygen might be hiding," said Paul Goldsmith, principal investigator on the Herschel Oxygen Project.

"But we didn't find large amounts of it, and still don't understand what is so special about the spots where we find it. The Universe still holds many secrets."

Original article

TAGGED: CHEMISTRY, SCIENCE, SPACE


RELATED CONTENT

Nasa's Curiosity rover zaps Mars rock

Jonathan Amos - BBC News Comments

Pew pew pew pew

Sun Is Roundest Natural Object Known

Dave Mosher - National Geographic Comments

The sun is the roundest natural object ever precisely measured, astronomers say.

Book written in DNA code

Geraint Jones - The Guardian Comments

Scientists who encoded the book say it could soon be cheaper to store information in DNA than in conventional digital devices

Prisoners pitch in to save endangered...

Ed Yong - Nature News Comments

Under the supervision of guards and graduate students, a small group of prisoners is breeding the beautiful orange-and-white insects in a greenhouse outside the prison. They have even carried out research to show what plants the butterfly prefers to lay its eggs on.

U.S. Should Adopt Higher Standards for...

- - Scientific American Comments

Teachers, scientists and policymakers have drafted ambitious new education standards. All 50 states should adopt them

17-year-old girl builds artificial...

John Roach - NBC News Comments

An artificial “brain” built by a 17-year-old whiz kid from Florida is able to accurately assess tissue samples for signs of breast cancer, providing more confidence to a minimally invasive procedure.

MORE

MORE BY -

Viewpoints: Why is faith falling in the...

- - BBC News Comments

A new poll suggests that atheism is on the rise in the US, while those who consider themselves religious has dropped. What's the cause? Two writers debate.

Missionaries of Hate

- - Top Documentary Films Comments

Documentary about ongoing events in Uganda, where many question whether the growing influence of American religious groups has led to a movement to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death.

Scientists Discover Previously Unknown...

- - URMC Comments

Newer Imaging Technique Brings ‘Glymphatic System’ to Light

Blasphemy Laws Exposed: The...

- - human rights first Comments

Blasphemy Laws Exposed: The Consequences of Criminalizing “Defamation of Religions”

Atheists On Religion, Science, And...

- - YouTube - townsquare Comments

Cara Santa Maria (Senior Science Correspondent, Huffingtonpost.com) leads this week's panel on 'The Point' to discuss these issues and more with Michael Shermer (Publisher - Skeptic Magazine), Sean Carroll (Theoretical Physicist - Caltech), and Edward Falzon (author of 'Being Gay Is Disgusting').

WALK DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE ~ 25 - 26...

- - Ancestors Trail Walk Comments

WALK DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE ~ 26 AUGUST 2012 - event begins on Saturday 25 August

MORE

Comments

Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment