The Herschel space telescope has for the first time discovered molecular oxygen in a star-forming region of the constellation of Orion.
While single atoms of oxygen have been found alone or incorporated into other molecules, the oxygen moleculeس had never been seen in space so far, the BBC reported.
Although oxygen is the third most abundant element in the cosmos, its molecular form that makes life on Earth possible had never been spotted in space.
A study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics claimed in 2007 that the Swedish Odin telescope has found oxygen in a nearby star-forming region, but the find was never confirmed.
Scientists say oxygen might be locked onto dust grains and incorporated into water ice that is why they chose a star-forming region in the constellation Orion, believing that oxygen would be “baked off” from the ice and dust in a warmer part of space.
“This explains where some of the oxygen might be hiding,” said principal investigator on the Herschel Oxygen Project Paul Goldsmith.
“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.”