Volume 93 Issue 29 | p. 27 | Concentrates
Issue Date: July 20, 2015

Buckyballs In Space

Astronomy: Gas-phase C60+ is identified as one of the molecules responsible for producing mysterious diffuse interstellar infrared bands
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Periodic table
News Channels: Analytical SCENE, Materials SCENE, Nano SCENE
Keywords: buckyball, interstellar medium, diffuse interstellar bands, fullerene
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Buckyballs help produce mysterious space spectra.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Buckyball in space!
 
Buckyballs help produce mysterious space spectra.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomers report that the buckminsterfullerene ion C60+ is the first molecule conclusively identified in the mysterious, pervasive infrared spectrum stemming from diffuse interstellar clouds (Nature 2015, DOI: 10.1038/nature14566). Buckyballs have been observed spectroscopically in both gas and solid form in densely populated areas around stars or in dense interstellar clouds. But the molecules that produce the so-called diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs), which are found in sparsely populated areas of interstellar space, have remained a mystery. Although some candidates have been proposed, including propadienylidene, H2C=C=C, no definitive identifications have been made. Scientists have previously proposed that two spectral lines in DIBs might be attributed to C60+. John P. Maier of the University of Basel and colleagues have now produced spectra from gas-phase C60+ in their lab and matched two lines to the two lines in DIBs. The work “securely identifies C60+ as a component of the interstellar medium,” write George Washington University’s Pascale Ehrenfreund and the European Space Agency’s Bernard Foing in an accompanying perspective.

 
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