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Researchers have recorded the first-ever image of two atoms bonding together to form a molecule.
Key to the experiment, which appears in the journal Nature, is the researchers' use of the energy of a single electron as a kind of "flash bulb" to illuminate the reaction. The team used ultrafast laser pulses to knock one electron out of its natural orbit in one of the atoms, just as the two atoms were bonding together. When the electron fell back into place, it emitted an energy signal that scattered around the newly forming molecule as a flash of light would scatter around an object, or ripples would scatter in a pond.