Found: The Oldest-Known Oxygen In The Universe

We’re getting closer to figuring out when life-giving elements first formed

SXDF-NB1006-2
The ancient galaxy SXDF-NB1006-2 is home to the oldest known oxygen (green in this illustration) in the universe.NAOJ

Scientists have pinpointed the most ancient oxygen yet discovered in the universe. Spied by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile, the oxygen is nestled in a galaxy 13.1 billion light-years from Earth. Called SXDF-NB1006-2, this galaxy is one of the oldest known.

Discoveries like this help scientists gather more information about when life-sustaining elements first formed after the Big Bang.

Any elements heavier than hydrogen, helium, and lithium are formed by nuclear fusion in stars. Our observations of SXDF-NB1006-2 capture what it looked like 700 million years post Big Bang. So for the galaxy to host oxygen, it must have had stars for some time by that point.