Astronomers have spent many years looking for molecular oxygen, the most common free form of oxygen that consists of two oxygen atoms with the designation of O2. Humans and other living organisms need this gas to breathe. For the past 20 years, the molecular oxygen has only been detected twice: in the Rho Ophiuchi and the Orion Nebula 350 and 1,344 light-years from Earth, respectively. But with a new tool, the researchers were able to travel search longer wavelengths and farther galaxies.
|Photo Credits: NASA via Unilad|
Scientists have struggled for decades to detect molecular oxygen in space despite its ubiquity and significance to habitability. But, recently, researchers detected molecular oxygen in a dazzling galaxy called Markarian 231, located 581 million light-years from the Milky Way. According to Unilad, a British Internet media company and website owned by LADbible Group that provides social news and entertainment, the said galaxy was discovered in 1969. It is the closest example of a quasar, active galactic nuclei and "the brightest objects in the universe," which are thought to be powered by supermassive black holes.
|Photo Credits: British Astronomical Association via Unilad|
However, the researchers clarified that while Markarian 231 contains the same form of oxygen breathable for humans, we still can't inhale it because it is not mixed with the right abundances of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, and all the other molecules that make Earth’s air breathable to humans and other organisms. “New astrochemical models are needed to explain the implied high molecular oxygen abundance in such regions several kiloparsecs away from the center of galaxies,” the researchers said.
|Photo Credits: Astronomy Is Awesome|
According to Vice, a Canadian-American print magazine focused on lifestyle, arts, culture, and news/politics, the researchers detected the oxygen using the IRAM 30-meter telescope in Spain and the NOEMA interferometer in France, revealing molecular oxygen emission “in an external galaxy for the first time.” The team stated that the discovery “provides an ideal tool to study” molecular outflows from quasars and other AGNs. “O2 may be a significant coolant for molecular gas in such regions affected by AGN-driven outflows,” they said.