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Scientists discover BREATHABLE OXYGEN in a galaxy outside of the Milky Way for the first time - the only problem is it's 581 million light years away

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 2/21/2020 Michael Thomsen For Dailymail.com

a large body of water in front of a building: Light wave readings taken at the IRAM 30-meter telescope in Granada, Spain (pictured above) helped scientists detect signatures of molecular oxygen in the Markarian 231 galaxy, the first time the compound has been detected outside the Milky Way © Provided by Daily Mail Light wave readings taken at the IRAM 30-meter telescope in Granada, Spain (pictured above) helped scientists detect signatures of molecular oxygen in the Markarian 231 galaxy, the first time the compound has been detected outside the Milky Way For the first time ever, astronomers have identified molecular oxygen in a galaxy outside the Milky Way.

The discovery was made by a team of astronomers at Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, led by Junzhi Wang.

The team identified the presence of molecular oxygen by analyzing light waves that had reached Earth from Markarian 231, a galaxy around 581 million light years away.

Ironically, the presence of oxygen in our own atmosphere, along with other gases, have traditionally made it difficult to get accurate light wave readings from distant galaxies, according to a report in Vice. 

Those light waves are typically absorbed or redirected by the various gas elements contained in our atmosphere, making it nearly impossible to get accurate readings.

The light waves from Markarian 231, however, came from what’s called a quasi stellar object, or QSO.

QSOs are distant objects that have a star-like appearance but emit light that’s been redshifted, traveling at a lower wave frequency than conventional.

Because the light readings from Markarian 231 originated from a QSO, they had a significantly lower wave frequency than standard light waves, which allowed them to pass through Earth’s atmosphere without any distorting effects.

The light wave readings were taken at two different locations: the IRAM 30-meter telescope in Granada, Spain, and the Northern Extended Millimeter Array telescope in the French Alps.

a star in the middle of the night: Markarian 231 is a galaxy 581 million light years away from Earth, and is believed to have 100 times as much oxygen as has so far been detected in the Milky Way © Provided by Daily Mail Markarian 231 is a galaxy 581 million light years away from Earth, and is believed to have 100 times as much oxygen as has so far been detected in the Milky Way

Based on the readings, the team estimates there could be more than 100 times as much oxygen in Markarian 231 galaxy as has so far been observed in the Milky Way.

Over the last 20 years, molecular oxygen has been detected on two other locations in the Milky Way: the Rho Ophiuchi cloud and the Orion nebula.  

Humans can breathe pure oxygen for short periods--it's used as a common treatment for some health conditions, including people afflicted with the bends--but our respiratory systems depend on other elements in air, like nitrogen and carbon dioxide, to function normally.

Breathing pure oxygen for prolonged periods can cause permanent lung damage and oxygen toxicity, resulting from blood hemoglobin being overwhelmed with more oxygen molecules than it can carry.     

Still, oxygen is believed to be one of the key elements necessary for the development of life. 

The team believes further research could help them understand how oxygen distributions factor into the development of galaxies and how that can create some of the necessary preconditions for the formation of life. 

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