Scientists have made a historic find in space. For the first time in history, a noble gas molecule has been detected in space. Argon—the third most common gas in the Earth’s atmosphere—is an inactive element. Argon actually means inactive or lazy in Greek.
This not only tells us something about the Crab Nebula, but the universe as a whole. The Crab Nebula is a notoriously hostile environment and is the perfect place for argon to form. Göran Pilbratt, Herschel project scientist at the European Space Agency says: “Herschel has directly measured the argon isotope we expect to be produced via explosive nucleosynthesis in a core-collapse supernova, refining our understanding of the origin of this supernova remnant.”
One of the more incredible parts of this discovery is that it was a total accident. None of the scientists expected to find anything related to this molecule in the Crab Nebula, let alone space in general.
“The Crab Nebula was only formed 1000 years ago when a massive star exploded”, stated Dr. Haley Gomez of Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
“Not only is it very young in astronomical terms, but also relatively close, at just 6,500 light years away, providing an excellent way to study what happens in these stellar explosions. Last year, we used the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory to study the intricate network of gas filaments to show how exploding stars are creating huge amounts of space dust.”
But, now that it has been found there, it uncovers more information about our galaxy as whole. The Milky Way’s chemical formation is more transparent than ever all thanks to one small molecule of argon gas found on accident over 6,500 light years from Earth.
crab nebula noble gas
Crab Nebula: Noble Gas Molecule Found in Crab Nebula–a First in Space, Say Researchers