Noble gas molecule found in space with Welsh help

The white areas show dust and argon hydride. Credit: See Below

Picture Credit: ESA/HERSCHEL/SPIRE and PACS/MESS GTKP supernova remnant team. NASA/ESA/Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Acknowledgment: Oli Usher (UCL).

Scientists say a molecule containing a noble gas has been discovered in space by a team which included astronomers from Cardiff University.

The find was made using SPIRE the Cardiff-led instrument aboard Europe's Herschel Space Observatory.

The molecule, argon hydride, was seen in the Crab Nebula, the remains of a star that exploded 1,000 years ago.

Noble gases rarely interact in chemical reactions and before the discovery, molecules of this kind have only been studied in laboratories on Earth.

The Crab Nebula is relatively close, at just 6,500 light years away, so it provides an excellent way to study what happens in stellar explosions.

Scientists using SPIRE were able to analyse the light emitted by spinning molecules. It has a very specific wavelengths, or colours, called emission lines.

Two of these lines proved the existence of Argon Hydride.