Herschel Telescope Detects Oxygen Molecules in Space

Artist's concept of a collection of oxygen molecules superimposed over an image of the Orion nebula taken in infrared lightDetectors on the Herschel Space Observatory’s large telescope have provided the first confirmation of oxygen molecules in space. The molecules were detected within the Orion Nebula.

Individual atoms of oxygen are common in space but not molecular oxygen. Astronomers searched for the elusive molecules for decades using balloons, as well as ground- and space-based telescopes. The Swedish Odin telescope spotted the molecule in 2007, but the sighting could not be confirmed.

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