Mysterious light may come from the largest molecules found in space

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The wavelengths of light emitted by large molecules called fullerene metal complexes in the lab match up with unexplained infrared signals from space



Space



28 July 2022

Illustration of C180 and C60 buckyballs

Buckyballs are made of spherical arrangements of carbon atoms

LAGUNA DESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Unexplained infrared emissions from inside and outside our galaxy may be linked to some of the largest molecules ever found in space.

Fullerenes, or buckyballs, are molecules shaped like hollow objects such as spheres, made up of 60 or more carbon atoms. These molecules have been identified a handful of times in space, but a more complicated form containing metals, called fullerene-metal complexes, has yet to be found.

These metal complexes are crucial for many carbon-based chemical reactions, including some that produce …



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