C60 confirmed in the Milky Way

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  • Published: Jul 17, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Base Peak / X-ray Spectrometry / MRI Spectroscopy / Proteomics / Infrared Spectroscopy / Raman / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Atomic / NMR Knowledge Base / Chemometrics & Informatics

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While all the limelight has been shining on Mars, Pluto and comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, scientists have also been quietly studying other areas of space, namely the Milky Way. Around 400 unidentified spectral absorption bands are currently recorded from this galaxy in the near-UV to near-IR regions and now two of the bands have been strongly attributed to C60+ molecules as the research team reported in Nature.

These bands were first reported in 1994 when it was suggested they might be from this molecule, based on speactra in the lab that were recorded for a neon-C60+ charge-transfer complex, although the spectra were shifted by 3-10Å. The new research is based on complexes of C60+ with helium that were produced at 5.8K and their electronic spectra were measured after single-photon excitation followed by He loss. The extremely close match between the lab spectrum and the bands from the Milky Way at 9632 and 9577Å has been seen as conclusive proof of the existence of fullerenes in space.

Confirmation of C60 will have far-reaching implications astrochemistry, especially the potential relationship between C60 and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are estimated to account for at least 15% of carbon in space.

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