There’s ionized oxygen in a galaxy located 13.1 billion light-years away from our home planet Earth, says a new study. It’s the most distant spot in the universe where oxygen has been discovered. This finding has allowed scientists to have an idea about what our universe used to be during the ancient times.
Right now, the universe is filled with an array of chemical elements. However, things were much different during the initial days following the formation of the universe. It used to be a place filled with hot and ionized gas containing ions and electrons of helium and hydrogen. It took 4,00,000 years for the universe to cool, which allowed the hydrogen ions and electrons to combine and form neutral atoms of hydrogen.
The next several billions of years didn’t see anything significant happen. The situation again turned eventful when the first generation of stars was formed. These stars used to emit strong radiation, which resulted in ionization of the neutral hydrogen atoms. In addition, the radiation emitted by the stars also synthesized other heavy elements like oxygen and carbon.
Scientists study those heavy elements from the current era for gathering clues about the reasons behind the re-ionization, the features of the first generation stars, and how the galaxies were formed. The job of studying the elements is extremely difficult as it requires scientists to find objects as remote as possible. Spotting such objects is possible only by using the most high-end telescopes of the modern era.
The study mentioned above was done using one such high-end telescope. It’s called the ALMA or Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array telescope. The astronomers involved in the study used the ALMA for targeting galaxy SXDF-NB1006-2. Here, it must be mentioned that ALMA is a telescope based in Chile.
This study was conducted in June 2015 and the galaxy was discovered in 2012. Other telescopes have confirmed that the SXDF-NB1006-2 is the most faraway galaxy discovered so far.
The ALMA telescope managed to do what scientists claimed in 2014. They said that the telescope boasts the ability of spotting and identifying light emitted by ionized oxygen in galaxy SXDF-NB1006-2. The telescope also allowed the research team to calculate that the galaxy has much less oxygen than the Sun.