Interstellar and Circumstellar Fullerenes

By Keith Cowing
July 8, 2014
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Interstellar and Circumstellar Fullerenes

Fullerenes are a particularly stable class of carbon molecules in the shape of a hollow sphere or ellipsoid that might be formed in the outflows of carbon stars. Once injected into the interstellar medium (ISM), these stable species survive and are thus likely to be widespread in the Galaxy where they contribute to interstellar extinction, heating processes, and complex chemical reactions.

In recent years, the fullerene species C60 (and to a lesser extent C70) have been detected in a wide variety of circumstellar and interstellar environments showing that when conditions are favourable, fullerenes are formed efficiently. Fullerenes are the first and only large aromatics firmly identified in space. The detection of fullerenes is thus crucial to provide clues as to the key chemical pathways leading to the formation of large complex organic molecules in space, and offers a great diagnostic tool to describe the environment in which they reside.

Since fullerenes share many physical properties with PAHs, understanding how fullerenes form, evolve and respond to their physical environment will yield important insights into one of the largest reservoirs of organic material in space. In spite of all these detections, many questions remain about precisely which members of the fullerene family are present in space, how they form and evolve, and what their excitation mechanism is.

We present here an overview of what we know from astronomical observations of fullerenes in these different environments, and discuss current thinking about the excitation process. We highlight the various formation mechanisms that have been proposed, discuss the physical conditions conducive to the formation and/or detection of fullerenes in carbon stars, and their possible connection to PAHs, HACs and other dust features.

J. Bernard-Salas, J. Cami, A.P. Jones, E. Peeters, E.R. Micelotta, M. Otsuka, G.C. Sloan, F. Kemper, M. Groenewegen (Submitted on 3 Jul 2014)

Comments: 6 pages, 2 figures. Proceedings of “The Life Cycle of Dust in the Universe: Observations, Theory, and laboratory Experiments”. Taipei, Taiwan 18-22 November 2013. Editors: A. Andersen, M. Baes, H. Gomez, C. Kemper, D. Watson

Subjects: Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)

Journal reference: Proceedings of Science (LDCU 2013)032

Cite as: arXiv:1407.0962 [astro-ph.GA] (or arXiv:1407.0962v1 [astro-ph.GA] for this version)

Submission history From: Jeronimo Bernard-Salas [v1] Thu, 3 Jul 2014 15:50:59 GMT (169kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻