Detection of C60 and C70 in a Young Planetary Nebula

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Science  22 Jul 2010:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192035


In the last decades, a number of molecules and diverse dust features have been identified by astronomical observations in various environments. Most of the dust that determines the physical and chemical characteristics of the interstellar medium (ISM) is formed in the outflows of asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars and is further processed when these objects become planetary nebulae (PNe). Here, we report on the environment of Tc 1, a peculiar PN whose infrared spectrum shows emission from cold and neutral C60 and C70. The two molecules amount to a few percent of the available cosmic carbon in this region, showing that if the conditions are right, fullerenes can and do form efficiently in space.