The origin of the attenuation of starlight in diffuse clouds in interstellar space at specific wavelengths ranging from the visible to the near-infrared has been unknown since the first astronomical observations around a century ago. The absorption features, termed the diffuse interstellar bands, have subsequently been the subject of much research. Earlier this year four of these interstellar bands were shown to be due to the absorption by cold, gas phase molecules. This discovery provides the first answer to the problem of the diffuse interstellar bands and leads naturally to fascinating questions regarding the role of fullerenes and derivatives in interstellar chemistry. Here, we review the identification process placing special emphasis on the laboratory studies which have enabled spectroscopic measurement of large cations cooled to temperatures prevailing in the interstellar medium.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Fullerenes: past, present and future, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Buckminster Fullerene’.
One contribution of 12 to a theme issue ‘Fullerenes: past, present and future, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Buckminster Fullerene’.
- Accepted February 2, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.