The discovery “is important for understanding the chemistry in large interstellar clouds where new stars are formed, and the processes behind star formation,” it said in a statement.
All previous attempts to detect molecular oxygen in interstellar space, from both observatories on Earth and in space, had failed.
For the first time, a team of Swedish, Canadian, Finnish and French scientists were successful, using the Odin space observatory located in space.
It is used to study both celestial objects and Earth’s atmosphere.
Molecular oxygen “was found in a dense (astronomically speaking) gas cloud in the constellation of Ophiuchus, at a distance of about 500 light years,” the statement said.
The observations were made during 33 days over a period from August 2002 to February 2006.
The research conclusions were published in the European scientific weekly Astronomy & Astrophysics.