H3+: The Molecule that Made the Universe
In a study that pushed quantum mechanical theory and research capabilities to the limit, UA researchers have found a way to see the molecule that likely made the universe – or at least the hot and fiery bits of it. Lurking in the vast, chilly regions between stars, the unassuming molecule known as a triatomic hydrogen ion, or H3+, may hold secrets of the formation of the first stars after the Big Bang.
Believed to be critical to the formation of stars in the early days of the universe, H3+ also is the precursor to many types of chemical reactions, including those leading to compounds such as water or carbon, which are essential for life. Early stars would have become hotter and hotter until they exploded before they ever formed, according to the researchers unless there was a way to release some of that pent-up energy. The groundbreaking results have been published in a recent edition of Physical Review Letters.