Recently, scientists discovered the presence of molecular oxygen in a completely different galaxy, which is an extremely rare event. The Astrophysical Journal notes that the presence of oxygen in a different galaxy would definitely change the way we look at the universe while making space exploration all the more necessary. Needless to say, the entire perspective towards the unknown would go under a massive change.
As we already know, Oxygen is one of the most common elements found. It lags behind Hydrogen and Helium, with its molecular form being its most common form. We know it in the form of O2 or the Oxygen that we breathe in. Interestingly, scientists have always found it difficult to find traces of it in the atmosphere, despite its apparent spread over the whole universe. Shanghai Astronomical Observatory’s Junzhi Wang reportedly had the first observation of this when he located Markarian 231, a galaxy situated 581 million light-years away containing molecules of Oxygen.
The only way these researchers could actually locate this phenomenon was through radio observatories that were ground-based. Wang mentioned that the IRAM in Spain and NOEMA in France really helped them identify molecular Oxygen somewhere in the deepest expanses of the Universe.
It must be noted that the atmosphere surrounding Earth is heavily layered, so wavelengths might get awry at times- making it difficult to locate the exact place in space where it was discovered.
This led to the discovery of oxygen by space telescopes. They zeroed in on the location of the molecule to the Rho Ophiuchi cloud which is located 350 light-years away, and Orion Nebula at a staggering 1344 light-years.
Wang’s team could identify the oxygen in Markarian 231 due to its light being red. This meant that Earth’s atmosphere wasn’t a hindrance for the light to reach the surface- leading to its discovery. Markarian 231 has always been under the radar of astronomers since 1969 because it contains a quasar which is simply an active galactic nucleus. This means that quasars build up the core of galaxies and actually are one of the most powerful objects in this universe.
Remember, just because this galaxy has a unit of oxygen doesn’t mean you can simply whip your spacesuit off and start inhaling deeply. It doesn’t contain all the other gases that make the air breathable. Pure oxygen probably is more toxic than the impure air that we breathe.
All the researchers are of the opinion that this discovery can get quite exciting in the future with further explorations made. Since Markarian has already been on the radar, it would be easy to find out just how much oxygen this galaxy contains, and what would be the best way to deal, or acquire it for our usage.
This discovery could also pave the way for further studies when dealing with topics like oxygen being the coolant for objects dispersed by such high magnitude AGNs. It has also been reported when the next generation of ground-based telescopes are ready to be applied in research this would be one of the main fields to delve upon. Then, things would get simpler as to how Oxygen helps deal with a planet or a galaxy’s survival.
Image credit: NASA