The football shape of the molecule, dubbed C60 at NASA, is created by the arrangement of 60 carbon atoms in a hollow sphere. The molecules are a form of carbon called Buckminsterfullerene, nicknamed Buckyballs. On Earth, these molecules can be found in rocks and minerals or appear in so-called created from high combustion.
But when stars and planets form, they draw together material from clouds of gas and dust.
And this is what makes the interstellar medium so important.
Although the molecules have been observed in space before, Hubble's landmark observation marks the first time electrically-charged C60 has been detected in the interstellar medium. The electrical charge occurs when an electron is shorn off by UV light from stars, which creates a positive charge.
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"The diffuse ISM was historically considered too harsh and teh. nuous an environment for appreciable abundances of large molecules to occur.
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“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 interstellar medium is difficult to study due to its distance, meaning astronomers are forced to study the way it affects light from distant stars to understand it
Some of the compounds that make up the interstellar medium block or absorb different wavelengths of starlight as it passes through this space.
Those compounds have unique patterns that affect starlight, allowing astronomers to identify them as diffuse interstellar bands.
Testing the many bands to match them up would take Hubble observations were matched with C60 data, but the research team was able to match C60. READ MORE: Scientists probe supermassive BLACK HOLE to disprove Einstein theory
Hubble observations were matched with C60 data.
Although most of this interstellar environment contains helium and hydrogen, two of the most plentiful elements in the universe, there are other unidentified compounds waiting to be discovered.
Life as we know it is carbon-based, and now carbon has been shown to form and survive in the harsh and exposed interstellar medium.
Dr Cordiner, who is now based on the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center added: “In some ways, life can The presence of C60 unequivocally demonstrates a high level of chemical complexity intrinsic to space environments, and points toward a strong likelihood of other extremely complex, carbon-bearing molecules arising spontaneously in space. . ”
Dr Cordiner said that the researchers will continue to see where else they can locate the molecules in the universe.
Their observations curre The Hubble Space Telescope is mankind's most significant astronomical advance since Galilei, which has been peering into deep space since since 1