Confirming Interstellar C+60 Using The Hubble Space Telescope

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 18, 2019
Filed under
Confirming Interstellar C+60 Using The Hubble Space Telescope
Fullerenes in Space

Recent advances in laboratory spectroscopy lead to the claim of ionized Buckminsterfullerene (C60+) as the carrier of two diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs) in the near-infrared.

However, irrefutable identification of interstellar C60+ requires a match between the wavelengths and the expected strengths of all absorption features detectable in the laboratory and in space. Here we present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) spectra of the region covering the C60+ 9348, 9365, 9428 and 9577 {\AA} absorption bands toward seven heavily-reddened stars. We focus in particular on searching for the weaker laboratory C60+ bands, the very presence of which has been a matter for recent debate.

Using the novel STIS-scanning technique to obtain ultra-high signal-to-noise spectra without contamination from telluric absorption that afflicted previous ground-based observations, we obtained reliable detections of the (weak) 9365, 9428 {\AA} and (strong) 9577 {\AA} C60+ bands. The band wavelengths and strength ratios are sufficiently similar to those determined in the latest laboratory experiments that we consider this the first robust identification of the 9428 {\AA} band, and a conclusive confirmation of interstellar C60+.

M. A. Cordiner, H. Linnartz, N. L. J. Cox, J. Cami, F. Najarro, C. R. Proffitt, R. Lallement, P. Ehrenfreund, B. H. Foing, T. R. Gull, P. J. Sarre, S. B. Charnley
(Submitted on 18 Apr 2019)
Comments: Accepted for publication in ApJL, April 2019
Subjects: Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)
Cite as: arXiv:1904.08821 [astro-ph.GA] (or arXiv:1904.08821v1 [astro-ph.GA] for this version)
Submission history
From: Martin Cordiner PhD
[v1] Thu, 18 Apr 2019 14:55:47 UTC (359 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

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) 🖖🏻