Finding: Buckminsterfullerenes are absorbing starlight

Old astronomic riddle on the way to be solved

From the University of Basel

Ionized Buckminsterfullerene (C60+) is present at the gas-phase in space. Credit: University of Basel

Ionized Buckminsterfullerene (C60+) is present at the gas-phase in space.
Credit: University of Basel

Scientists at the University of Basel were able to identify for the first time a molecule responsible for the absorption of starlight in space: the positively charged Buckminsterfullerene, or so-called football molecule. Their results have been published in the current issue of Nature.

Almost 100 years ago, astronomers discovered that the spectrum of star light arrived on earth with dark gaps, so-called interstellar bands. Ever since, researchers have been trying to find out which type of matter in space absorbs the light and is responsible for these “diffuse interstellar bands” (DIB) of which over 400 are known today.

Diffuse_Interstellar_Bands[1]Football molecule and interstellar clouds

Astronomers have been suspecting for a while that big complex molecules and gaseous ions based on carbon could be absorbing the starlight. The Buckminsterfullerene is such a molecule: a structure made up of 60 carbon atoms shaped like a football that was first discovered in the mid-1980s.

After this discovery, the questions arose if it was possible that the football molecule was in fact responsible for the DIB. The research team led by Prof. John P. Maier from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Basel has been studying the electronic absorption of the ionized Buckminsterfullerene since 1993. In fact, the spectrum measured in the lab did show absorption features at two wavelengths that were near two DIB that had been discovered by astronomers the following year.

Conditions similar to outer space

In order to unequivocally prove that these molecules absorb starlight and thus produce the DIB, a gas phase spectrum of the ion was needed. The Basel researchers now succeeded at this: “This is the very first unequivocal identification of such a molecule in the interstellar clouds”, says Professor John P. Maier. “We have achieved a breakthrough in solving the old riddle of the diffuse interstellar bands.”

In order to obtain the spectrum in the laboratory using a diode laser, several thousand ionized Fullerenes were confined in a radiofrequency trap and cooled down by collisions with high density helium to very low temperatures of around 6 degree Kelvin – conditions very similar to outer space.

The absorptions measured in the laboratory coincide exactly with the astronomical data, and have comparable bandwidths and relative intensities. This identifies for the first time two DIB and proves that ionized Buckminsterfullerene (C60+) is present at the gas-phase in space. “This is remarkable, considering the complexity of this molecular ion and the presence of high-energy radiation in such an environment”, says Maier.

###

Original source

E. K. Campbell, M. Holz, D. Gerlich & J. P. Maier

Laboratory confirmation of C60+ as carrier of two diffuse interstellar bands

Nature (2015), doi: 10.1038/nature14566

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98 thoughts on “Finding: Buckminsterfullerenes are absorbing starlight

    • Tennis balls.
      BTW, “football”, in case anyone is confused by the spherical form of the molecule, translates to “soccer ball” outside Europe.

      • A more accurate name for the American alternative to Association Football; AKA soccer, would be: ” Please don’t Kick the Ball ”
        You don’t “kick the ball” in American football except when you fail to advance it 10 yards in three attempts, and then you have to turn it over to the opposing “please don’t kick the ball ” team.
        “Toss ball” would be another possible name.
        Australian Rules is a real game where you are allowed to kick the ball. Anybody can, any time, anywhere, whenever they feel like it.
        Soccer is sort of a form of “dance ball” where the idea is to do a kind of highland dance around the ball; maybe getting it prepared for when it is time to kick it over the frame that has a net over it, in case somebody can’t kick it over the goal.
        If somebody accidently misses and the ball ends up in the net, they mark you up one demerit for doing that. The idea is to finish the dancing game without earning any marks.
        World cup soccer players are experts at kicking the ball over the goal properly.
        George

    • They would emit what they absorb if they were at the temperature of a star. You need to be veeeeery hot to emit at visible light frequencies. Instead, they are probably emitting in the far infrarred, at some other frequencies that they also absorb but are not the ones that the article is talking about.

      • They are not solids/liquids, so not going to exhibit blackbodiesh properties (temperature dependent emission). They are a vapour/gas which absorb/emit regardless of temperature.

      • these bigs molecules may emit in their whole spectrum what they absorb in one frequency. don’t they ?

      • Well a lot of radiation is emitted from single atoms at visible wavelengths, and single atoms simply do not know anything about Temperature.
        You are confusing thermal radiation that depends on the Temperature of very large assemblages of interacting atoms or molecules, with atomic spectra that depend only on the electronic structure of single atoms.

  1. Lot’s of interesting questions here;
    – What other complex carbon molecules are floating around in space? Presumably they would have to be very stable (think viruses).
    – Are there any silicon based molecules of a similar nature?
    – What is it about carbon that is different to silicon that seems to make carbon the “survivor” in an evolutionary sense as the basis for observable life as we know it?
    Thanks for some neuronal exercise in the morning (Australia) Anthony. Let’s have more of this real science.

    • – What other complex carbon molecules are floating around in space? Presumably they would have to be very stable (think viruses).
      – Are there any silicon based molecules of a similar nature?
      – What is it about carbon that is different to silicon that seems to make carbon the “survivor” in an evolutionary sense as the basis for observable life as we know it?

      The answer to this is probably related to the sources of Carbon in the first place. Most of the matter in the visible Universe is (still) Hydrogen and Helium. Almost every element heavier than these two — called “metals” by astrophysicists — are forged in the heart of stars as end products of the fusion chain, OR produced in the intense compression associated with a supernova. Carbon, IIRC, is produced in relative abundance in the ordinary course of fusion (which can release energy fusing all the way from hydrogen to iron, but requires the input of energy to make heavier elements than iron):
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nucleosynthesis
      There is an order of magnitude more carbon than silicon, as carbon is an important bottleneck in ordinary stellar fusion but silicon is associated only with the end processes leading up to the (often spectacular) demise of stars.
      Silicon does not ordinarily form fullerenes, although silicon fullerene structures have VERY recently been synthesized in the lab:
      http://phys.org/news/2015-03-fullerene-chemistry-silicon.html
      Not likely an important factor in stardust between the order of magnitude difference in abundance and the fact that you need additional elements to stabilize the buckeyball.
      As for evolution, there are likely lots of very good reasons for life to be carbon based. One is that silicon dioxide is enormously stable — quartz rock. Carbon dioxide is not — it is a gas and is comparatively easy to split up into carbon and oxygen again OR to synthesize into more complex compounds. Another is abundance — yes, there is a lot of silicon in rocky world’s like the Earth, but cosmically there is a LOT more carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen than there is silicon, as all three are produced in somewhat similar quantitites by the CNO fusion cycle. Between their abundance, their gaseous form (making them important components of atmospheres), the fact that water is H_2O (binding a lot of oxygen into a polar molecules with rather amazing properties) it isn’t at all clear that silicon COULD be a reasonable basis for life. How, exactly, would an organism create a free energy cycle? Once bound up as an oxide, silicon is pretty much finished. You can read an interesting review article on this very question here:
      http://thelivingcosmos.com/TheNatureofLife/SiliconVsCarbon_12May06.html
      Note well — perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of solubility of silicon compounds in water, where carbon dioxide is readily dissolved in water and can comparatively easily be dissociated or rearranged with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen (all also soluble) in water. Silicon doesn’t easily form hydrates, and once it forms an oxide (which happens spontaneously and doesn’t even require high temperatures) it is done. Silicon dioxide is awesomely stable, which is why it is the basis for most earthly rock.
      That doesn’t make silicon uninteresting. We may yet make silicon the basis for a peculiar form of “life” or “intelligence” because of its lovely properties as the basis of semiconductors. Our own biological thinking engines are carbon based hardware and wetware, but we are making ever more powerful silicon based “thinking” engines running on human-designed software. We may prove to be nothing more than an intermediate step in the long term evolution of silicon “life”. A number of science fiction authors have certainly speculated on this.
      rgb
      P.S. — note well, the answers to all of your questions and more are available in a few seconds via Google, wikipedia, and articles readily available on the net. You don’t have to wait for them to be posted on WUWT, although it is entertaining when they are…

      • Science fiction…, or not?
        http://www.startrek.com/legacy_media/images/200510/tos-026-injured-horta/320×240.jpg
        “The Horta is a highly intelligent, silicon-based species, that is capable of tunneling through solid rock ike humans are able to walk through air.
        Discovered on the planet Janus IV, the Horta is female, and lives below the planet’s Federation mining facility.
        Around stardate 3196.1, the Janus VI miners were suddenly attacked repeatedly by this creature, who as it turns out, was merely trying to protect her eggs. The miners were unaware that their mining posed a serious threat to both the Horta’s unborn children and to the future of the entire Horta species.”
        from http://www.startrek.com/database_article/horta
        – ‘resistance was futile’ on that one rgb 😉

      • Although SiO2 is very stable as you say, and not greatly “water soluble” ii is slightly water soluble so that opals can form when you have silicate rocks in water; particularly tidal waters that come and go so that silica can deposit in layers.
        And ordinary silica based glass, quite commonly contains water so that it is quite common for ordinary glass to have infrared absorption in the 900 nm to 1 micron region.
        SiO2 is fairly soluble in water at high temperatures and pressures, so that it is quite easy to grow single crystal quartz ingots in autoclaves, although it takes a fairly long time. They hang up seed crystals of quartz with the desired orientation just like hanging up salmon in a smoker, and spend weeks growing quartz crystals to use for frequency controlled oscillators. The stability of the SiO2 crystal is such that the resonant frequencies are very stable, and very narrow bandwidths.
        HP scientists discovered a single unique doubly rotated quartz crystal orientation that oscillates in a mode that has a very linear Temperature coefficient of frequency, so it is use for quartz thermometers with very good stability. Many quartz cuts have parabolic Temperature curves, and at least one form is known (GT cut) that has a cubic Temperature coefficient that can be quite frequency stable over a fairly wide range of Temperatures near ambient, so it was often used without Temperature control for frequency standards near 100 kHz. I have a special GY cut crystal which I think is around 500 kHz, which is high for a GT cut, but it divides down to a near 60 Hz frequency referenced to sidereal time slowed by 26 seconds per day, to run a telescope clock drive with synchronous AC motors. The 26 seconds per day offset from sidereal time compensates for atmospheric refraction, which displaces stars towards the zenith, so it makes them appear to move slower. The result can track the stars for about 4 hours around the meridian to about one arc second. Or something like that

      • My magic clock drive frequency is 492.718 kHz.
        You divide that by 2^13 (8192) and you get close to 60 Hz sidereal. Actually the day is lengthened from 86164.1 seconds to 86190 seconds for best atmospheric refraction correction. The last divide by four is made as a four state counter which gives you two 60 Hz square waves in quadrature to drive a precision synchronous AC clock motor.
        Well today you would use an Intel I-7 processor and some software to go to any place in the universe and track it for as long as the sun doesn’t rise. But then you wouldn’t know anything about length / width extension oscillatory modes of quartz crystal plates.
        g

  2. Its from all those candles we have been burning since the middle ages ,
    p.s. there are Bucky 2 football shapes depending if you are on the right, or wrong side, of the Atlantic. C60 is the British football, C70 is the American football (or the British Rugby ball as some tend to call it)
    Regards

    • If you want freakish bounces nothing beats the Aussie Rules Football. The thing has a mind of its own. BTW why is it called “football” in America?

      • For me there is no confusion. Football is “soccer”, there is Rugby and I just call it Aussie Rules (no football). As far as the Yanks are concerned, well, they have to be different. Personally, I refer to it as American Gridiron. Full disclosure before someone gets their nickers into a bunch, I am an expat American.

      • You may find it interesting to know that soccer was the original name of the game and was used by the upper class in England throughout most of its existence. Football was the lower class name given to the game but by that time several different sports around the world were called football. The name “football” is derived from the game being played on foot, rather than on horseback for instance, not because you interact with the object with your feet.
        P.S. American football, invented at Yale, is the ultimate sport played on foot on account of its higher dependence on scheme and tactics, as well as its much more complex rule set when compared to other “football” sports. That’s my yanky opinion anyways. 😉

      • I have watched US football and it is a snoozefest compared to Aussie rules. Aussie rules is non-stop action and there are a few rules … so they claim. Having watched all forms of football extensively, I certainly think the Aussie variety provides the most exitement in a balanced contest.
        Had to laugh when Aussie Rules player Darren Bennett went to play as a punter for the San Diego Chargers. He got pulled aside by the coach when chasing after the kick and laying tackles. He was admonished … not supposed to do that apparently LOL. The fans thought it was great.

  3. Ok, I get it now. By “football” they mean what Americans call a soccer ball, right?

    • Actually, it was the English who first used the word ‘soccer’ for that game that mostly, for the spectator, consists of watching the grass grow. It happened when the game became popular amongst the upper classes. The term football referred to a game played on foot rather than mounted. We Americans simply adopted the English word.

    • >>Ok, I get it now. By “football” they mean
      >>what Americans call a soccer ball, right?
      Two nations divided by a common language….

      • Buckminster Fuller, being an American, would never have called it football shaped.
        And soccer is a game to keep the great unwashed masses busy. It’s a team sport sport that requires none of the finer developments of human creativity – just a ball, some space, and some sticks to mark the goals.

      • Everywhere but America? The population of English speaking countires that use “soccer” is almost 3x the population of English speaking countires that use football. (USA and Canada 326million English speakers, all other English speaking countries, 114 million)

      • “The word “soccer” is actually British. It derives from the game’s proper name, association football, with the “soc” bit taken from the word “association” .
        The reason it came into popular usage was simple: in the 19th century, football and rugby were both commonly known as football, the former dubbed “association football” and the latter “rugby football”. But both phrases are a bit of a mouthful, however, so they were popularly shortened to “soccer” and “rugger” to keep things simple. [https://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com]”
        Not our fault. Also note that the writer defines the “proper name” as “association football,” so calling soccer foot ball is just sloppy.

      • SilverR
        Apologies, but I think the (umm) ‘traditional pentagon – hexagon ‘ design is a product of the sixties.
        As a lad, I played with foot/soccer balls with six panels, each of three (later – four) essentially similar strips of leather.
        And, when wet – very heavy.
        Headers needed to be deflections . . . .
        Ref – Jeff Astle [WBA & England].
        Auto [showing his age a bit)

      • Well Association Football, slangily known as “Soccer” predates Rugby football, to which there are no similarities whatsoever.
        Legend has it that during a typically boring game of soccer; and mostly they are all that, one of the players let his emotions get the better of him, and in a spur of the moment genius, he simply picked up the ball and ran with it down to the goal and tossed it in the net, and Rugby Foot ball came into existence.
        Rugby was I believe, the name of the school, where this scandalous, and ungentlemanly act took place.
        There are some rules in Australian Rules Football.
        The most important rule is that when somebody cold cocks the referee, play must stop, and may not resume until the referee is awakened with smelling salts or some other remedy, like a bucket of cold water.
        Other than that, play can be stopped if the ball is destroyed.
        g >> G

    • The American football is shaped so that a Monkey may fornicate with it. Hence the phrase “like a monkey F***ing a football,” commonly used to describe ludicrous actions, like oh, say a Mann monkeying with tree rings.

      • Naw, it’s shaped so a skilled athlete may throw an amazing, beautiful tight spiral pass 70 yards, leading perfectly a world-class sprinter in full stride traversing ten yards every second. Why kick a ball around when you can do that?

  4. Science of wonder and curiosity like a child in a new world. Too often we’re forced to endure a science of dread: a failing old man fearing death.

    • How can you possibly enjoy this? Reliable sources have made it clear everyone here is “anti-science”. The debate about that is over. Harrumph!
      /sarc

  5. Of course, Nature won’t allow any mention of the possibility that redshift is somehow associated with the absorption by interstellar and intergalactic matter.
    The state of cosmology is still as Al-Gorian as that of climatology, maybe more so. But the next generation of astrophysicists will laugh (bitterly) at Martin Rees, Leif Svalgaard, and other “watchdogs” of the BBT. As long as these blackguards of science are alive, though, no observational evidence, no laws of physics, no reality shall touch the lambda-cold dark matter of their committee-allocated brains.

    • We have spent a hell of a lot of money collecting supernova redshifts and on digital sky surveys of galactic redshifts. When you come up with a theory that accords as well with the observations as BBT, please be sure to let us know.

      • There is a tendency to exclude the obvious explanation that the permeability of free space is not a constant throughout all space-time.

      • Who are “we”… “us”…? Speak for yourself, and name yourself.
        The Big Bang creationist fantasy contradicts every possible observation, and there are dozens of theories that explain redshift better than your Holy Textbook.
        I stand with Hoyle, Arp, Ratcliff, Burbidge, Narlikar and many others persecuted by academic bureaucrats in the name of their feeding troughs. Hubble himself rejected the primitive redshift-as-velocity fairy tale. falsified by thousands of observations. BBT is dead.

      • I must admit, for the past few months I have been coming ’round to the same conclusion that BBT is very poorly, at least. It seemed to coincide with my feeling about the TV comedy programme, too! I can’t bring myself to think that the theory is actually dead though.

      • When someone comes up with a BBT that actually agrees with basic physics like the second law, please let us know. If you research the “dissident” opinions regarding the BBT such as Hoyle, Narlikar, Arp, the Burbidges and many others, the first thing you note is that sceptics of BBT point to “consensus science” as the reason BBT has the widest acceptance. The parallels between BBT sceptics and Climate Science Sceptics criticisms are precise and detailed down to the complaint that a triumph of mathematical models over observation and consequent adjustment of data to match theory has corrupted the process. And now you mention how much money has been spent and compared with climate science, it is a pittance.
        The problems between BBT and empirical observation are so extensive that entire books have been written about them. Then the authors discover that the “consensus” holders control publication venues (familiar yet again), to the point that arXiv at Cornell, which was at one time one of the great repositories of thought, now censors what is posted – and bans all BBT criticism regardless of the stature of the critic.
        The sad part is that many reputable scientists doubt BBT but cannot express that doubt openly. Halton Arp was actually banned from access to US observatories, though his catalog of active galaxies is a standard one widely used. Hubble himself rejected the idea later when it became clear that “cosmological redshift” could not occur “locally” – that is, not within the observational range of his original study that first noted red shifts. None of the galaxies he studied for his original paper could show cosmological red shift according to current theory. When you think about it, climate science is not much, if any, worse than the situation in other fields.

      • The BBT, another example of scientific theory crossing over into the world of religion, and subsequently fiercely defended as such by its proponents. ∞

    • Alexander Feht says:
      July 15, 2015 at 4:46 pm
      Of course, Nature won’t allow any mention of the possibility that redshift is somehow associated with the absorption by interstellar and intergalactic matter.

      The interstellar gas should be moving at different speeds depending on its distance from us (as is the case for stars). That should have the effect of smearing out the absorption lines; possibly a lot.

      • Alexander Feht, I think you might have misunderstood what commieBob meant.
        Or did you really mean to claim that stars and interstellar material distant from us do not move at greater speeds (relative to us) than do stars and interstellar material which are near to us, and that people who disagree with you are “simpletons?”
        If that’s really what you mean, then you must think that the vast, vast majority of astronomers and astrophysicists are “simpletons.”
        It sometimes happens that the vast majority of scientists are wrong about something. Thinking that could be the case would not make you a crank. But if you really think the vast majority of scientists are “simpletons,” then that would make you a crank.

      • Astrophysicists know, on the basis of thousands of factual observations, that redshift is a result of many various factors, velocity being, probably, the least important of all. There are many books on this topic, written by some of the best astronomers in the field (I would recommend Hilton Ratcliff’s The Static Universe as a general, easy-to-read introduction to the multitude of theories that explain the redshift — and the universe as we see it — much better than the ubiquitous “Lambda-Cold Dark Matter Gobbledygook”). Only an intellectually blind or intentionally dishonest person could insist these days that the Big Bang theory is correct in any way or form.
        The final and irrefutable evidence of the Big Bang theory being no more than an anti-scientific, creationist, bureaucratic concoction is the fact that its adherents silence, ostracize, persecute, exclude from the scientific community, and deprive of any means of conducting research even the most respected astronomers and astrophysicists who dare to speak about what their eyes and experience tell them.
        Were the apologists for the BBT sure that their theory is correct, they would never refuse to publish results that are not aligned with their ideology. They condemned themselves as being a Modern Inquisition. (I don’t know, how many of them actually work for Vatican but it takes only a quick search on Amazon.com to find dozens of books using the “Big Bang” myth to support most absurd religious notions.)

      • For those who doubt that there are thousands of irrefutable factual observations and measurements that are completely incompatible with the so-called “Standard Model,” let me quote just one of these results. After all, if we are talking about science, not religion, it takes only one to debunk the fantastic hypothesis, doesn’t it?
        Here is a quote from Y. P. Varshni, an astrophysicist from University of Ottawa:
        “Purely as an academic exercise, we calculate the transverse velocities required for the three quasars PHL 1033, LB 8956 and LE 8991 on the cosmological red shift hypothesis. We take the smallest value of proper motion within the uncertainty range and assume the Hubble Constant to be 50 km sec-‘ Mpc-‘ and qo = 0. Then we find that in terms of the velocity of light c, V, = 760c, 5200c and 2300c for PHL 1033, LB 8956 and LB 8991 respectively. Needless to say these values are without any physical significance and clearly indicate that the cosmological red shift hypothesis is completely untenable.”
        This single paragraph, debunking the “Standard Model” approach to quasars, is enough to stop talking about BBT. There are literally thousands of such observations, calculations, and actual astronomical photographs and statistical plots that make BBT a laughing stock of the future generations.
        It is not that the vast majority of scientists are simpletons. The vast majority of people earning their living pretending to be scientists created a myth that satisfies simpletons’ desire for Creation. It’s that simple, really. And it pays to lie!

      • @A Feht,
        I also have a problem with “the standard model” but do not see how you can designate it as a “creationist” scheme as I would also fall squarely into that camp. General relativity is violated again and again by the standard model but that does not obviate the existence of a higher power, a God, outside of space/time. Is it that much easier for you to believe that everything always was than to believe that it all exploded out of nothing 13+ billion years ago? The universe exhibits too much perfection for its fundamentals to be accidental irrespective of the time or manner of its origin. I see intelligent design. Quantum/particle physics has been proven time and again in the laboratory and is in many ways more mystical in its operations than the concept of an intelligent designer. Vanity is the greatest obstacle to science and also to the belief in a higher power. An infinite and eternal universe, which many cosmologists are coming to consider based upon acoustics of what is presently called the big bang, does not obviate a creator. The big bang may have been a relatively recent and local event in such a universe. Google “infinite universe” for a great deal of info on some of the attempts to marry particle physics with general relativity. There are real scientists butting heads with the standard model.
        Jim G1

    • You haven’t dealt with my contention that the absorption lines should be smeared (assuming that the Buckminsterfullerenes aren’t all clumped in the same place). Whatever the cause, the magnitude of red shift increases with distance.

      • No, the magnitude of the red shift, most of the time, has nothing to do with distance, and it has been proved by thousands of precise observations. Therefore, looking for a cause of something that is proclaimed on the basis of mathematical juggling but is not based on facts is called “circular logic” (another term for “ideology”).

    • Your uncalled for confrontational tone would indicate that your objections are more predicated on your religious beliefs then on the search for scientific truth. The same could be said for your attempt to shoehorn a screed against BBT into a thread concerning an article about DIB”s.

  6. Why is there not a squid shaped molecule call Cthulhu-rene? Fullerene looks awefully like Azathoth:
    “[O]utside the ordered universe [is] that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity” ~ Lovecraft.
    Sounds oddly like Lovecraft spent time in a modern university, possibly gender studies or the Climastrology department, especially the blasphemes and bubbles part – then again that could be all the kale and granola kicking in.
    Good questions @ExArdingJas. Do complex molecules with similar shapes form in different Elements?
    Is there a Silicon or other equivalent of Fullerene?
    And how do we get Americans to call Soccer – Foot Ball, as nature intended?

    • “And how do we get Americans to call Soccer – Foot Ball, as nature intended?”
      Kick them in the head. As nature intended.
      OTOH maybe nature intended to kick the non-Americans in the head. TBD.

      • Applying an even hand….
        According to Identity politics, each group, segment, section, collective, collation or smigily-diggily –
        Slaps, boots, hacks, cracks, whacks, bashes, smashes or crashes –
        itself, herself, himself, zir-self, trans-self or bookshelf –
        in the chimney, walrus, Viggo Mortensen or Petunia – so as not to cause offense to any other group, segment, section, collective, collation or smigily-diggily.
        Bonus points for doing it harder, faster, sooner, longer or deeper than any other.
        Bonus, Bonus points for posting it first on Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook or a public wall.
        Of Topic – Kudos NASA! New Horizons put a smile on my dial this week.

    • Because Europe no longer measures things in feet? Over here it’s called metric football.

      • You are right, especially for journalists. The unofficial area unit is the football field. Everything is mentioned as the equivalent to “these many” football fields.

  7. I think “buckminsterfullerene” is the most beautiful name in science; it says so much (or so little) in a mere six syllables. It is even possible to say it iambically, so a sonnet could contain it. Perhaps I shall name a daylily after it (I breed daylilies here at home).

  8. So, carbon is causing problems in interstellar space as well as here on Earth. It is such a troubling element.
    Here is one of my favorite explanations of the greenhouse effect, and it is from that deep-thinking scientist, David Suzuki. I know this has been out there is the blogosphere for at least 6 years, but it bears repeating, to benefit those of you who have never read it.
    http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/features/suzuki/story.html?id=4bee3fa9-9a10-46f1-9d6a-648a19710b30
    David Suzuki is one of these “scientists” that are so sought after by the mainstream press, but is obviously out of his element when he speaks of anything more complicated than how to boil water.

    • “We are familiar with this effect in a car that has sat in the sun. The interior becomes hot because the carbon in the glass keeps the heat in.”
      WOW (thanks for the link)

      • Hi Bubba. Maybe we should call it the ‘Suzuki Effect.’ And I think it’s growing. I get all sorts of sales emails and I got one recently for this product called the ‘Air Cube.’ The following is a direct quote from the ad:
        “The award-winning Air Cube makes monitoring the air around you a breeze. This portable, Bluetooth-enabled device can detect Carbon Dioxide, the fine dust that’s been linked to all sorts of cancers and conditions we should all be avoiding — as well as particulate matter, temperature, and humidity. A perfect gadget for those who love to stay healthy, the Air Cube is the latest step in improving our world.”
        Got that? They’re now equating CO2 with indoor air quality. Don’t be surprised if some people buy this thing, recognize that the CO2 in their homes is greater than outside (which it will be because of their respiration), and assume that’s the reason it’s hotter in their homes than outside on a warm summer day – the Suzuki Effect.

      • This article, which seems to be from 1990 originally, encapsulates the whole set of ideas driving the warming scare from start to now. I do think this explains a lot.
        A 1 degree increase in temperature is seen as the type of change that could end an ice age.
        Carbon is controlling the properties of the atmosphere and what gives Earth a temperature that can sustain life.
        And finally your car is the real world evidence of this “science”., in that it being a carbon controlled mini-greenhouse.
        This’d be a Fail essay at any level in the education system. I’d sure would’ve marked it as such at university level. Good language but made-up content. And very annoying as it is claiming to be in the name of science.
        This has been driven by pseudoscience from start. I just wonder why 25 years later so few scientists do grasp this? Or do even most Nobel laureates believe in Suzuki-glass?

      • It just boggles the mind. How can this guy still have a job as a science spokesman?
        And how in the name of heaven can self-respecting journalists continue to hype Suzuki, Gore, and their ilk? It would be so simple for a respected journalist to destroy those two guys. This (hypothetical) journalist could just get a collection of their claims, then ask his high school chemistry and physics teachers to critique the claims. Then report on the results. Devastating.

    • The phrase “not even wrong”, can now be morphed into “not even ignorant”.

      • Maybe “not even Suzuki”
        Now we can relate BBT (the show) back to more show science alarmism. (This case; BIll Nye the alarmism guy) Love the Professor Proton episodes:
        “Haven’t you stolen enough from me? Back off, Bow Tie!”

    • They’ll have to blame and tax us now for stellar emissions, naturally. It’s worse than we thought…

  9. So where does DiSiliconCarbide show up in the Spectral Lines? All that Graphene waiting to happen, just needs some electrons.
    Someone phone the Sun, get our order in before Friday.

  10. Have these things actually been found in space in large quantities, or is somebody just pulling theories out of where the sun don’t shine?

  11. I wonder where they are “back radiating” to? Stars galaxy wide getting hotter and hotter due to the backradistion of molecules at 6Kelvin. Yes sarc tag definitely required!

    • There are sheets of suzukiglass throughout the Universe, reflecting the heat back. The suzukiglass is what the missing mass is in the Universe. We can’t see it, but it’s there. Hydrogen isn’t the most abundant element, carbon is – locked up inside suzukiglass. If we start exploring the Universe, we will break lots of suzukiglass.
      Oh, I need to go and rub myself down with a damp copy of the Guardian.

    • Didn’t you know that the walls of a cavity backradiate to each other till you have nuclear meltdown? Just wait. The stars eventually explode from this.

  12. Good bit of work.
    There must be other allotropes of Carbon up there too. Maybe diamonds the size of a small moon.
    I wonder what process selects C60 over the others. Is it the lowest energy allotrope – preferred to graphite?

  13. I did some sums a few years ago, idly speculating on possible contributions to the phenomenon of ‘red shift’ ….. looking at the distance to the furthest known stars, and the estimated amount of diamond atoms per cubic km in free space. It looked like these photons would likely have to pass through a huge equivalent thickness of diamond. This could give rise to considerable optical effects such as diffraction, refraction, co-interrference etc.

  14. The major elements found in interstellar space are hydrogen and helium. Carbon is a major element in the gas/plasma cast off by solar flares, CMEs, and novae. I would guess it is the third most abundant atom found outside of stellar systems. In a low pressure, low temperature environment carbon would bond to other carbon atoms forming fullerenes among other things.
    The ‘magic’ of neutral and ionized fullerenes is that they have large enough molecular orbitals to accommodate long-wave EM radiation absorption. Once absorbed, the fullerene can only shed the energy by either interactions with other molecules/photons or by black-body radiation – at 6° K – which will mainly be seen in the microwave region.

  15. When I read “riddle of the … Bands” i immediately was reminded of the very first spy novel “Riddle of the Sands” published in 1901, where two yachtsmen discover a German plan to invade England. Could what we see as fullerenes possibly be evidence of a vast fleet of alien spaceships built of buckminsterfullerene cruising through space looking for other worlds to conquer?

  16. As carbon is black all this stuff in interstellor space must be evil, is it the dark matter or the dark energy that in the standard model that makes up 95% of space. Maybe it is the long derided Aether those subspun photons that teem but are not seen, spun up we see them, spin them up a bit more they become electrons mysteriously appearing in vacuum tubes,. The Aether that does not exist seems to be most of the universe, I take great delight after waiting half a century to see the surprise of Pluto, no doubt I shall be long passed before science grows up and becomes free of political correctness and monetary gain[dirty money]
    The internet may save science from itself ,TonyN yes that fact that light travels from distant objects to us through so much stuff gives it a red shift, it does not mean it is accelerating away from us, it just means there is a lot of stuff in space.

  17. While I think this is very cool…
    They have shown that this COULD be one of the molecules that cause DIB, but, IMHO, this is far from confirming that this IS on of the molecules that cause DIB.

  18. So now I’m left wondering what kind of space drive produces bucky balls as exhaust. ^¿^

  19. I absolutely fail to see how absorption of certain specific wavelengths (which appears to be what this article is about) can cause red-shift, which is the consistent shifting towards the long end, of identifiable spectra that are (once you shift them back) more or less identical to spectra from nearby stars. This is what I learned in first-year physics (wasn’t required for earth-science people but I sat in out of interest, god god almighty what a keener I once was!). Either I’m missing something or I have fallen into a nest of conspiracy-theorists who conveniently dispense with factual analysis. And I do miss stuff all the time, so that’s not a rhetorical device, just a statement of alternative possibilities.
    But (thinks….) If I read this right, the absorbed bands should also be red-shifted from distant absorption sites relative to nearby absorption sites. Perhaps that’s why they’re diffuse, mixing of absorbed spectra with different degrees of red-shifting of the absorbed wavelengths due to absorption in multiple clouds of buckyballs at different distances (not the source spectra, which would be fixed at one level of red-shiftedness by distance/velocity of the source star). I’m not explaining it very well, am I?
    Expanding universe does not equal BBT. When I hear learned astrophysicists talk about “inflation” during the first couple of yoctoseconds of the BB, I start thinking of pinheads and angels (and climate models too!). But then again, I may be missing something. It has been known.

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