This is because for the first time ever, astronomers have spotted molecular oxygen (which is the version of the gas that we breathe in) in another galaxy outside of the Milky Way. Dubbed the Markarian 231, this galaxy is located a staggering 581 million light years away from the Milky Way, where astronomers used a IRAM 30-meter telescope in Spain and the NOEMA interferometer in France which allowed them to spot the molecular oxygen.
While it seems unlikely that we will be traveling to Markarian 231 anytime soon, the discovery is important because oxygen is a key ingredient for life here on Earth, where many living organisms rely on it for survival. It is also important as it could help scientists better understand the role that oxygen plays in the evolution of the universe, like planets, stars, galaxies, and life in general.
According to the researchers, “O2 may be a significant coolant for molecular gas in such regions affected by AGN-driven outflows. New astrochemical models are needed to explain the implied high molecular oxygen abundance in such regions several kiloparsecs away from the center of galaxies.”