Buckyballs behind Milky Way mystery

For almost a century, astronomers have observed gaps in the broad spectrum of light reaching Earth from other stars in the Milky Way galaxy. These gaps, called diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs), arise when dust and molecules in interstellar space absorb specific wavelengths of light, thus darkening those bands of light from view. Although hundreds of distinct DIBs have been recognized, scientists have only been able to hypothesize as to the identity of the molecules responsible, until now. In a new study published in Nature, scientists say they have “positively identified” one of the interstellar light-absorbers: nanometer-wide carbon cages named buckminsterfullerene, or “buckyballs.”

Full content for EARTH is available to subscribers. If you would like to gain access to the full version of this article, as well as all EARTH content, please subscribe today.

If you are connecting using a Library (IP-based) Subscription, please access full issues of the magazine through our Library Access portal.

Timothy Oleson

Timothy Oleson

Oleson is the news editor at EARTH, and writes the Bare Earth Elements blog. His scientific interests span the geosciences from biogeochemistry to seismology to space science. Formerly based in Madison, Wis., he now resides in the Washington, D.C., area.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 06:00

Did you know ...

EARTH only uses professional science journalists and scientists to author our content?  In this era of fake news and click-bait, EARTH offers factual and researched journalism. But EARTH is a non-profit magazine, and at least 10 times more people read EARTH than pay for it. As advertising revenues across the media decline, we need your help to ensure that we can continue bringing you the reliable and well-written coverage of earth science you know and love. Our goal is not only to inform our readers, but to inform decision makers across the economic and political spectrum about the science of our planet. So, we need your help. By becoming a subscriber or making a tax-deductible contribution to support EARTH, you can fund our writers and help make sure the world knows about our planet.

Make a contribution