Physical properties of fullerene-containing Galactic planetary nebulae

Otsuka, Masaaki; Kemper, F.; Cami, J.; Peeters, E. and Bernard-Salas, J. (2014). Physical properties of fullerene-containing Galactic planetary nebulae. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 437(3) pp. 2577–2593.



We searched the Spitzer Space Telescope data archive for Galactic planetary nebulae (PNe), which show the characteristic 17.4 and 18.9 µm features due to C60, also known as buckminsterfullerene. Out of 338 objects with Spitzer/Infrared Spectrograph data, we found eleven C60-containing PNe, six of which (Hen2-68, IC2501, K3-62, M1-6, M1-9 and SaSt2-3) are new detections, not known to contain C60 prior to this work. The strongest 17.4 and 18.9 µm C60 features are seen in Tc1 and SaSt2-3, and these two sources also prominently show the C60 resonances at 7.0 and 8.5 µm. In the other nine sources, the 7.0 and 8.5 µm features due to C60 are much weaker. We analysed the spectra, along with ancillary data, using the photoionization code CLOUDY to establish the atomic line fluxes, and determine the properties of the radiation field, as set by the effective temperature of the central star. In addition, we measured the infrared spectral features due to dust grains. We find that the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) profile over 6–9 µm in these C60-bearing carbon-rich PNe is of the more chemically processed class A. The intensity ratio of 3.3 to 11.3 µm PAH indicates that the number of C-atoms per PAH in C60-containing PNe is small compared to that in non-C60 PNe. The Spitzer spectra also show broad dust features around 11 and 30 µm. Analysis of the 30 µm feature shows that it is strongly correlated with the continuum, and we propose that a single carbon-based carrier is responsible for both the continuum and the feature. The strength of the 11 µm feature is correlated to the temperature of the dust, suggesting that it is at least partially due to a solid-state carrier. The chemical abundances of C60-containing PNe can be explained by asymptotic giant branch nucleosynthesis models for initially 1.5–2.5 M stars with Z = 0.004. We plotted the locations of C60-containing PNe on a face-on map of the Milky Way and we found that most of these PNe are outside the solar circle, consistent with low metallicity values. Their metallicity suggests that the progenitors are an older population.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions