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Scientists working with the Hubble Space Telescope have found a very complex molecule out there in space. Called Buckyballs, after renowned thinker Buckminster Fuller, they are a molecular arrangement of 60 carbon atoms (C60) in the rough shape of a soccer ball. Though it’s not the first time these exotic molecules have been spotted in space, it is the first time that Buckyball ions have been found.
The Buckyballs, (aka Buckminsterfullerenes) were found in the Interstellar Medium (ISM,) the diffuse matter and radiation that exists in between solar systems. Since ISM is the sort of fundamental matter out of which stars and planets eventually form, astronomers are really interested in it. Understanding the contents of the ISM sheds light on the rise of stars, planets, and eventually life itself.
Confirmation - C60+ - Shows - Astrochemistry - Density
“Our confirmation of C60+ shows just how complex astrochemistry can get, even in the lowest density, most strongly ultraviolet-irradiated environments in the Galaxy.”
The team behind this discovery published their findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters on April 22nd, 2019. The paper is called “Confirming Interstellar C60+ Using the Hubble Space Telescope.” The lead author is Martin Cordiner of the Catholic University of America, stationed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Earth - Scientists - C60+ - Rocks - Minerals
On Earth, scientists have found C60+, but it’s rare. They’ve found it in rocks and minerals, and also in soot generated by high-temperature combustion. Finding the ionized (electrically charged) form of C60+ in the ISM is surprising, because it’s such a harsh environment.
The C60+ in space is ionized by stars. The ultraviolet light from stars strips an electron from the C60, which leaves the molecule with a positive charge. Finding these complex carbon molecules in space is one step towards a more complete catalogue of the matter in the Interstellar Medium.
Diffuse - ISM
“The diffuse ISM was historically considered too harsh and tenuous an...
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