For the first time, researchers have calculated the vibration patterns of a compound called
H3+ (also known as a triatomic hydrogen ion), which consists of three hydrogen atoms sharing two electrons. Knowing how the molecule can vibrate allows scientists to predict which wavelengths of lightit will emit, giving them a way to identify its signature in astronomical observations. H3+ is important because it is thought to have been prevalent in the universe just after the Big Bang that started things off around 13.7 billion years ago. As said University of Arizona chemist Ludwik Adamowicz most of the universe consists of hydrogen in various forms, but the H3+ ion is the most prevalent molecular ion in interstellar space. It’s also one of the most important molecules in existence. H3+’s vibration and light-emitting qualities may have enabled it to transfer heat away from the first stars as they were in the process of forming, allowing them to coalesce without overheating and bursting apart. According to Michele Pavanello there wouldn’t be any star formation if there weren’t molecules that slowly cool down the forming star by emitting light. Astronomers think that the only molecule that could cool down a forming star in that particular time is H3+. Adamowicz and Pavanello used a computer simulation to model the behavior of H3+, based on quantum mechanics. Their simulations predicted numerous potential vibrations that would cause H3+ to emit photons of specific wavelengths, or energies. If telescope observations of a particular cloud in space reveal light of these wavelengths, then astronomers will know the cloud contains H3+. The calculations should also help scientists understand the complicated physics of how stars form, especially the earliest stars in the universe.