Hubble detects buckyballs in diffuse interstellar medium

Figure: artistic representation of the presence of buckyballs in space.

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A new study, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and involving Francisco Najarro, a researcher at the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, CSIC-INTA), presents the finding for the first time of buckyballs in the diffuse interstellar medium (ISM). Knowing the content of the ISM gives us clues and information about the ingredients needed to form stars and planets.
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Life, as we know it, is based on molecules that contain carbon. Now, an international scientific team, with the participation of the Centro de Astrobiología, has discovered thanks to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, carbon ionized molecules in the diffuse interstellar medium (ISM). Specifically, so-called 'buckyballs' have been discovered: a molecule made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged in a hollow sphere shaped like a football. The C60 is ionized when ultraviolet light from stars extracts an electron from the molecule, giving it a positive charge (C60+).

These molecules had previously been identified in space, but this is the first time they have been detected in the diffuse interstellar medium. This can be seen as a starting point for the chemical processes that ultimately give rise to planets and life. Therefore, knowing its contents throws clues and information about the ingredients necessary to form stars and planets.

The study, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, shows that complex carbon molecules can form and survive in the hostile environment of interstellar space, considered a tenuous and harsh environment for abundance to occur appreciable of large molecules.

Now, the team continues to work on finding C60+ in more environments to know how widespread the 'buckyballs' are in the universe.

 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

 

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