Free Access
Volume 589, May 2016
Article Number A5
Number of page(s) 7
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
Published online 04 April 2016

© ESO, 2016

1. Introduction

Fullerenes, highly resistant and stable tridimensional molecules that are formed exclusively by carbon atoms, have attracted much attention since their discovery in a laboratory by Kroto et al. (1985); C60 and C70 are the most abundant fullerenes. Fullerenes and fullerene-based molecules, such as hydrogenated fullerenes and buckyonions, may explain some astrophysical phenomena, like the intense UV absorption band at 217 nm (e.g., Cataldo & Iglesias-Groth 2009) or the so-called diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs; see e.g., Cox 2011; Iglesias-Groth 2007; García-Hernández & Díaz-Luis 2013; Díaz-Luis et al. 2015). Owing to the remarkable stability of fullerenes against intense radiation and ionization, these molecules are good candidates for being widespread in insterstellar/circumstellar media. Their presence in astrophysical environments have recently been confirmed by the Spitzer Space Telescope via the detection of the mid-infrared C60 and C70 fullerene features in the spectrum of the young planetary nebula (PN) Tc 1 (Cami et al. 2010).

The detection of fullerenes in Tc 1 was interpreted as being due to the H-poor conditions in the nebular core (since there is no polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) emission; Cami et al. 2010), in agreement with some laboratory studies (e.g., Kroto et al. 1985), which show that fullerenes are efficiently produced in the absence of hydrogen. However, it has been demonstrated that fullerenes are efficiently formed only in H-rich circumstellar environments (García-Hernández et al. 2010, 2011b), challenging our previous understanding of the formation of fullerenes in space. In particular, the simultaneous detection of C60 fullerenes and PAHs in several PNe with normal hydrogen abundances has been reported (García-Hernández et al. 2010; 2011a; 2012; Otsuka et al. 2014). García-Hernández et al. (2010) propose that both fullerenes and PAHs in H-rich circumstellar ejecta may form from the photochemical processing of hydrogenated amorphous carbon (HAC) in agreement with the experimental results of Scott et al. (1997)1. In addition, the first evidence of the possible detection of planar C24 (a piece of graphene) in some of these fullerene-containing sources has been reported (García-Hernández et al. 2011a), which raises the idea that other forms of carbon such as hydrogenated fullerenes (fulleranes such as C60H36 and C60H18), buckyonions, or carbon nanotubes, may be widespread in the Universe.

Table 1

Observational parameters of fullerene PNe and their comparison stars.

Duley & Williams (2011) predict the production of fullerenes via thermal heating of HAC and this process may explain the detection of fullerenes in H-rich circumstellar environments (e.g., García-Hernández et al. 2010). Interestingly, they also predict the formation of hydrogenated fullerenes (fulleranes). On the other hand, Iglesias-Groth et al. (2012) found that the 3.44 and 3.55 μm bands of several fulleranes display molar extinction coefficients that are similar to those of the 17.4 and 18.8 μm bands of the isolated C60 molecule (Iglesias-Groth et al. 2011). Thus, it could be reasonable to find fulleranes with line intensities similar to the ones already measured with Spitzer at 17.4 and 18.8 μm in fullerene-containing PNe. Indeed, Zhang & Kwok (2013) have tentatively detected fulleranes in the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) spectrum of the proto-PN IRAS 01005+7910, where three emission peaks at ~3.48, 3.51, and 3.58 μm in the C-H stretching region seem to be present.

More recently, several fullerene-based molecules, like fullerene/PAH adducts, have been synthesized and characterized in the laboratory (e.g., García-Hernández et al. 2013; Cataldo et al. 2014, 2015). Remarkably, fullerene/PAH adducts such as C60/anthracene display mid-IR (λ> 5 μm) spectral features that are strikingly coincident with those from C60 and C70 (García-Hernández et al. 2013) and it is still no clear if these species could contribute to the observed C60 (and C70) features in fullerene-rich environments. Laboratory spectra of C60/anthracene adducts display the typical aromatic bands around 3.3 μm, as well as aliphatic CH bands at ~3.39, 3.43, and 3.52 μm, which are not present in the C60 and C70 spectra. In principle, this could be used to elucidate the possible carrier (e.g., C60 versus C60/PAH adducts) of the mid-IR features seen in fullerene PNe. However, the CH stretching bands are intrinsically weaker than the other emission features at longer wavelengths and the presence of these CH stretching bands (typical for CH2 and CH3 groups of several carbonaceous materials) is not yet completely understood (García-Hernández et al. 2013), which complicates the search of these fullerene-related species in space.

In this paper, we present VLT/ISAAC spectroscopy (the 2.94.1 μm spectral region) of two PNe with fullerenes (Tc 1 and M 120). An overview of the spectroscopic observations is presented in Sect. 2; together with a summary of the nebular emission lines observed. Section 3 presents a brief discussion of the detection of the 3.3 μm unidentified infrared emission (UIE) feature in our VLT/ISAAC spectrum of M 120 and its possible carriers. Section 4 discusses the non-detection of infrared emission bands (e.g., from fulleranes) in our spectra. The conclusions of our work are given in Sect. 5.

2. Mid-infrared VLT/ISAAC spectroscopy of PNe with fullerenes

We acquired 3-4 μm infrared (IR) spectra of the fullerene PNe Tc 1 (W1[3.35 μm]WISE = 8.19, E(BV) = 0.23; Cutri et al. 2012; Williams et al. 2008) and M 120 (W1[3.35 μm]WISE = 9.65, E(BV) = 0.80; Cutri et al. 2012; Wang & Liu 2007) with a signal-to-noise ratio (at the continuum in the final IR spectra) of ~26 and 11, respectively. Tc 1 displays a fullerene-dominated spectrum with no clear signs of PAHs, while M 120 also shows weak PAH-like features (see, e.g., García-Hernández et al. 2010). Table 1 lists some observational parameters such as Galactic coordinates, color excess and radial velocity for the two fullerene PNe in our sample and the corresponding telluric/flux stars for each PN.

The observations of Tc 1, M 120, and their corresponding telluric/flux standards were carried out at the ESO VLT (Paranal, Chile) with ISAAC in service mode between 1423 July 2013. We used the LWS-LR/3550 nm set-up with the 0.6′′ slit oriented at a position angle of 0°. This configuration covers the spectral range 2.94.1 μm and gives a resolving power of ~600, which is required to cleanly separate the 34 μm features of several fullerene-based molecules as seen in the laboratory. During the observations, the seeing was about 0.50.6 and 1.51.7 arcsec for Tc 1 and M 120 (and their corresponding standards), respectively.

thumbnail Fig. 1

VLT/ISAAC spectrum of PN M 120. The atomic H lines of the Pfund series (Pfϵ, Pfδ and Pfγ), H I (617), H I (615), and Brα, as well as the UIE feature at 3.3 μm and the line of He I (45), are indicated.

Table 2

Nebular emission lines identified in the 2.9-4.1 μm spectra of M 120 and Tc 1.

The spectra were obtained combining the chopping technique (moving the secondary mirror of the telescope once every few seconds) with telescope nodding. We used a total integration time of 38 min for each observing block (OB). For Tc 1, we obtained three OBs of 26 individual exposures each, giving a total exposure time of ~1.9 h, and for M 120, one OB of ~38 min. Raw spectra were processed by the ISAAC data reduction pipeline2 in conjunction with the data browsing tool GASGANO3. In short, i) flat-fields are combined to produce a master flat-field; ii) the wavelength calibration and ISAAC slit curvature distortion is computed using OH sky lines; and iii) the removal of the high degree of curvature of ISAAC spectra is performed by calculating the spectra curvature using a star moving across the slit. Thus, science frames were reduced using the products of the pipeline calibration recipes. The produced 2D image for each PN is then used to extract the one-dimensional spectrum across the defined apertures with IRAF4. We note that the continuum emission is not extended in both PNe but, to cover the nebular hydrogen lines in the 2D images, we needed to define an aperture of 78 and 10 pixels for Tc 1 and M 120, which translate (scale of 0.15 arcsec/pixel) into nebular extensions of ~11.5 and ~1.5 arcsec, respectively. Finally, the extracted spectra were combined to produce a final, reduced science spectrum. This process was also done for the telluric stars, which are also used for flux calibration (see below).

We used the telluric stars to determine the sensitivity and extinction functions to flux calibrate our science spectra with standard tasks in IRAF. We assumed that the two stars behave approximately like black bodies. There are two parameters needed to scale the black body to the observation: the magnitude of the star in the same band as the observation (L-band at 3.4 μm) and the effective temperature. The estimated flux errors are approximately 3040%. Finally, telluric correction was made using the telluric star for each PN.

2.1. Nebular emission lines

In this section, we give an overview of the nebular emission lines that were observed in the 2.9 to 4.1 μm region. This spectral range is dominated by nebular emission lines of hydrogen.

Our list of features in Tc 1 and M 120 is shown in Table 2, where we give the measured central wavelength (λc), the full width at half maximum (FWHM), the equivalent width (EQW), and the integrated flux5.

The M 120 spectrum includes the atomic hydrogen lines Pfϵ at 3.07 μm, a blend of the UIE feature at 3.31 with Pfδ at 3.32 μm, Pfγ at 3.75 μm, and Brα at 4.05 μm. It also includes the tentatively identified H I (617), H I (615), and He I (45) lines at 3.76, 3.91, and 4.04 μm, respectively. In Fig. 1, we display the M 120 spectrum in the 2.9-4.1 μm range.

The Tc 1 spectrum includes the atomic hydrogen lines Pfδ, Pfγ, the tentatively identified H I (617) and H I (615) lines, and Brα. It also includes the tentative He I (45) line at 4.04 μm. In Fig. 2, we display the Tc 1 2.94.1 μm spectrum.

thumbnail Fig. 2

VLT/ISAAC spectrum of Tc 1. The atomic H lines of the Pfund series (Pfδ and Pfγ), H I (617), H I (615), and Brα, as well as the line of He I (45), are indicated.

3. The 3.3 μm UIE feature

We clearly detect the 3.3 μm UIE feature in M 120, while this feature is completely lacking in Tc 1. This is consistent with the Spitzer spectra; M 120 displays UIE features (PAH-like) at 6.2, 7.7, 8.6, and 11.3 μm, but these are absent in Tc 1 (e.g., García-Hernández et al. 2010). The detected UIE feature in the M 120 spectrum was fitted with a Gaussian to determine the feature’s FWHM and central wavelength. Owing to the emission line of H I (Pfδ) at 3.32 μm, it was necessary to deblend both features. The average central wavelength of the UIE feature was 3.31 μm, with a FWHM of 0.05 μm. This is consistent with the values measured by Tokunaga et al. (1991) and Smith & McLean (2008; average values of λc ~ 3.29μm and FWHM ~ 0.04μm) in extended objects such as PNe, (proto-) PNe, and H II regions. In Fig. 1, we can see the 3.3 μm UIE feature in the M 120 spectrum blended with the Pfδ hydrogen emission line at 3.32 μm.

3.1. Possible carriers of the 3.3 μm UIE feature

The 3.3 μm feature belongs to the group of UIE features or aromatic infrared bands (AIBs) at 3.3, 6.2, 7.7, 8.6, 11.3, and 12.7 μm. These bands may be accompanied by aliphatic bands at 3.4, 6.9, and 7.3 μm, and unassigned features at 15.8, 16.4, 17.4, 17.8, and 18.9 μm (Jourdain de Muizon et al. 1990; Kwok et al. 1999; Chiar et al. 2000; Sturm et al. 2000; Sellgren et al. 2007)6, and the broad emission features at ~69, 913, 1520, and 2535 μm, which are believed to be produced by a carbonaceous mixture of aromatic and aliphatic structures (e.g., HAC, coal, petroleum fractions, etc.), and/or their decomposition products (García-Hernández et al. 2010, 2012; Kwok & Zhang 2011). The 11.3 μm UIE feature is found to be correlated with the 3.3 μm feature (Russell et al. 1977), which suggests a common origin for the two features. This correlation holds for fullerene PNe; we detect the weak UIE feature at 3.3 μm in our VLT/ISAAC spectrum and the M 120 Spitzer spectrum shows a very strong aromatic-like infrared band at 11.3 μm (García-Hernández et al. 2012), while Tc 1 displays a very weak emission at 11.3 μm and it does not show the feature at 3.3 μm.

A wide variety of molecules have been proposed as possible carriers of these 3.3 and 11.3 μm UIE bands. Currently, the most accepted idea is that they originate from the C-H vibration modes of aromatic compounds or PAHs (e.g., Duley & Williams 1981; Leger & Puget 1984; Allamandola et al. 1985). However, Sadjadi et al. (2015) calculated the out-of-plane (OOP) bending mode frequencies of 60 neutral PAH molecules and found that it is difficult to fit the 11.3 μm UIE feature. This feature cannot be fitted by superpositions of pure PAH molecules, and O- (and or Mg-) containing species are needed to achieve a good fit, suggesting that the PAHdb model (Bauschlicher et al. 2010; Boersma et al. 2014) has problems explaining the UIE phenomenon (see Sadjadi et al. 2015 for more details). Maltseva et al. (2015) also found difficulties for predicting high-resolution experimental absorption spectra of PAHs in the 3 μm region with harmonic density functional theory (DFT) calculations. However, their anharmonic DFT calculations work well for small PAHs in this spectral region, opening the way to predict the spectrum of larger PAHs (and other hydrocarbons). Finally, Gadallah et al. (2013) also found that the 3.3 μm and 6.2 μm AIBs are also clearly observed in the spectrum of heated HAC dust.

On the other hand, Duley & Williams (2011) suggest a model in which the astronomical emission at 3.3 μm can be explained by the heating of HAC dust via the release of stored chemical energy. This energy could be sufficient to heat dust grains (with sizes of ~501000 Å) to temperatures at which they can emit at 3.3 μm. This alternative to the PAH hypothesis involves a solid material with a mix of aliphatic and aromatic structures (i.e., HACs), which may explain the broad emission features at ~69, 913, 1520, and 2535 μm detected in PNe with fullerenes (García-Hernández et al. 2010, 2012) and most C-rich proto-PNe. Moreover, laboratory experiments show that the products of destruction of HAC grains are PAHs and fullerenes (Scott et al. 1997), something that could explain the detection of both types of molecules in some fullerene PNe (García-Hernández et al. 2010). Unfortunately, our VLT/ISAAC observations do not add much information about the real carrier (e.g., PAHs vs. HACs) of the 3.3 μm emission. The non-detection of 3.3 μm emission in Tc 1 may suggest a different spatial distribution of the 3.3 μm carrier and the C60 (and C70) fullerenes. Bernard-Salas et al. (2012) already found that the Spitzer C60 8.5 μm and weak 11.2 μm emission (which likely share the same carrier with the 3.3 μm emission, see above) are extended, but they peak at opposite directions from the Tc 1 central star7. The Spitzer observations (slit of ~4″ × 57″ at a PA of 0 deg) show extended emission up to ~22′′ (Bernard-Salas et al. 2012), while our VLT/ISAAC spectra, taken with a smaller slit of 0.6 arcsec, show no extended emission at 3.3 μm. Thus, it could be possible that we are missing the weak 3.3 μm emission in the ISAAC observations (e.g., a small column density throughout the circumstellar envelope). In the case of the more compact (apparent size of ~2 arcsec) PN M 120, we have no spatial information from the Spitzer spectra (which covered the entire nebula) and the 3.3 μm emission in the VLT/ISAAC spectra is not extended.

In short, it is still not clear if the emission bands at 3.3 and 11.3 μm seen in PNe with fullerenes are only due to pure aromatic compounds or to mixed aromatic/aliphatic structures, such as those of HAC-like dust.

thumbnail Fig. 3

VLT/ISAAC spectra of M 120 and Tc 1, in comparison with the laboratory spectra of the fulleranes C60H18, C70H38, and C60Hx+C70Hy in the 3.13.8 μm range. Note that the C60H18 fullerane bands at 3.42, 3.46, and 3.51 μm and the C70H38 fullerane bands at 3.44 and 3.54 μm are marked with dashed lines. The C60Hx+C70Hy fullerane bands are those at 3.44, 3.51, and 3.54 μm.

4. Non-detection of the fullerane features

The IR laboratory spectra (R ~ 500) of several fulleranes, such as C60H18, C60H36, or C70H38 (Iglesias-Groth et al. 2012), show that the strongest features in the mid-IR (220 μm) are those at ~3.44, 3.51, and 3.54 μm8 (see Fig. 3), being the best IR bands for searching these molecules in the circumstellar environments of fullerene-rich PNe. Thus, at the resolution (R ~ 600) of the VLT/ISAAC observations, it is possible to easily resolve these bands, as well as to distinguish them from the 3.3 μm emission (Iglesias-Groth et al. 2012). However, none of these three emission features is detected in our VLT/ISAAC spectra of Tc 1 and M 120. Figure 3 shows the non-detection of the fullerane features between 3.4 and 3.6 μm in our VLT/ISAAC spectra of Tc 1 and M 120. The laboratory spectra of the fulleranes C60H18, C70H38, and C60Hx+C70Hy (see below) are also displayed and their corresponding 3.43.6 μm features are indicated.

We could estimate approximate upper limits to the fluxes of the hydrogenated fullerene features (see Table 3). To obtain 2σ upper limits to the expected emission line fluxes of the fullerane features at ~3.5 μm, we measure the rms in our flux-calibrated VLT/ISAAC spectra; rms values of ~4.28 × 10-19 erg cm-2 s-1 Å-1 and ~6.65 × 10-18 erg cm-2 s-1 Å-1 for Tc 1 and M 120 are obtained, respectively. Then we multiply these values by the widths (FWHMs in the range 0.020.10 μm) of the fullerane bands, as measured in the infrared laboratory spectra9. We used the laboratory spectra of two C60H18 isomers (that were obtained using hydrogen iodide and direct hydrogenation with metal hydrides), two C60H36 spectra at +48 °C and +250 °C, two C70H38 spectra at +50 °C and +160 °C, and the fullerane mixture 77% of C60Hx and 22% C70Hy with xy ≥ 30 at +45 °C (see Iglesias-Groth et al. 2012 for more details). Finally, we divided these fluxes by the area (~0.6′′ arcsec2 for both PNe) of the emission in the 34 μm range covered by our ISAAC observations.

Table 3

Summary table showing examples of the expected fluxes for the fullerane features.

On the other hand, by using the molar absorptivity values for the fullerenes and fulleranes that have been reported by Iglesias-Groth et al. (2011; 2012), we can estimate the predicted fluxes for the fullerane features in Tc 1 and M 12010 (see Table 3). By taking the molar absorptivity ratio (e.g., ϵ C60 /ϵfulleranes) of the fullerene and fullerane bands and the observed fluxes of the C60 and C70 infrared bands that were less contaminated by other species (García-Hernández et al. 2012), we estimate the expected flux of the fullerane features at ~3.5 μm. We note that this is only an approximation and a complete model for the excitation/emission of both species is needed. The Spitzer integrated fluxes of the infrared bands at 8.5 and 17.4 μm (C60), and 14.9 μm (C70) are taken from García-Hernández et al. (2012) and converted to flux/arcsec2 by considering the area covered by the fullerenes emission in the Spitzer spectra of Tc 1 (~80 arcsec2 at 8.5 μm and ~53 arcsec2 at 14.9 and 17.4 μm) and M 120 (~4 arcsec2 at 8.5, 14.9, and 17.4 μm).

Table 3 shows some examples of the estimated 2σ upper limits and the predicted fluxes for the fullerane bands. For example, the molar absorptivity ratio of the C60H36 band at 3.44 μm and the C60 infrared band at 8.5 μm is ϵ8.5/ϵ3.44 ~ 0.34. Thus, the expected flux of the C60H36 band at 3.44 μm in Tc 1 and M 120 would be ~22.13 × 10-14 erg cm-2 s-1/arcsec2 and ~5.58 × 10-13 erg cm-2 s-1/arcsec2, respectively (see Table 3). Similar values are obtained for the fullerane C60H36 band at 3.54 μm, with expected fluxes of ~16.23 × 10-14 erg cm-2 s-1/arcsec2, and ~4.11 × 10-13 erg cm-2 s-1/arcsec2 in Tc 1 and M 120, respectively. In summary, the expected fluxes for all fullerane bands of C60H18, C60H36, C70H38, and the mixture C60Hx+C70Hy (by using the observed Spitzer fluxes of the C60 8.5 and 17.4 μm and C70 14.9 μm bands) are in the range of ~1.7−30 × 10-14 and ~1.4−5.6 × 10-13 erg cm-2 s-1/arcsec2 in Tc 1 and M 120, respectively (see Table 3 for some representative examples).

By comparing the values of the predicted fluxes with our 2σ upper limits (Table 3), we find that the expected fluxes are a factor of ~201000 and ~10100 higher than the 2σ upper limits for Tc 1 and M 120, respectively. From these estimations, we thus conclude that if fulleranes are present in Tc 1 and M 120, then they seem to be much less abundant than C60 and C70.

As we mentioned above, thermal heating via chemical reactions internal to HAC dust may explain the detection of fullerenes in the H-rich circumstellar environments of PNe, which could potentially form fulleranes (Duley & Williams 2011). In addition, Duley & Hu (2012) reported that laboratory spectra of HAC nano-particles that contain fullerene precursors (or proto-fullerenes; PFs), but not C60, display the same set of mid-IR features as the isolated C60 molecule. They suggest an evolutionary sequence for the conversion of HAC to fullerenes, in which initial HAC de-hydrogenation is followed by PF formation and subsequent conversion of PFs to closed cage structures such as C60. Under the Duley & Hu (2012) scenario, Tc 1 would represent the last stage in the HAC de-hydrogenation process (i.e., only fullerenes are present), while the proto-PN IRAS 01005+7910 would represent an intermediate stage where the PFs are being converted to fullerenes. Of note, fulleranes may also be by-products of this conversion from HAC to fullerenes (Duley & Hu 2012).

Interestingly, Zhang & Kwok (2013) have (tentatively) detected fulleranes in the proto-PN IRAS 01005+7910; three strong C-H stretching bands at 3.48, 3.51, and 3.58 μm are apparently present in its ISO spectrum with fluxes that are comparable to the one of the 3.3 μm feature. By assuming that all features have the same oscillator strength, they conclude that the calculated relative strengths indicate that the m value (degree of hydrogenation of the fulleranes C60Hm) may lie within the range from 2540, which is consistent with the production of C60H36 (the dominant product of the hydrogenation reaction of C60; e.g., Cataldo & Iglesias-Groth 2009)11. In addition, the observed fluxes of the C60 and fullerane bands suggest that about 50 percent of fullerenes have been hydrogenated. Curiously, IRAS 01005+7910 displays exceptionally strong C60+ DIBs (Iglesias-Groth & Esposito 2013).

Our non-detection of fulleranes in more evolved PNe (such as Tc 1 and M 1-20 with Teff> 30 000 K) together with their possible detection in less evolved sources (like IRAS 01005+7910 with Teff ~ 21 500 K) thus suggest that fulleranes may be formed in the short transition phase between asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars and PNe but they are quickly destroyed; e.g., they are photochemically processed by the rapidly changing UV radiation from the central star. The rapid increase of the UV radiation towards the PN stage will easily break the CH bonds of the previously formed fullerane molecules, forming fulleranes at lower hydrogenation degree or reforming – more resistant – C60 and C70 fullerenes and molecular hydrogen (Cataldo & Iglesias-Groth 2009). However, it is still not clear what the origin of fulleranes is. Fulleranes could be formed via the Duley & Hu (2012) HAC de-hydrogenation process, mentioned above, in which fulleranes may be by-products from the conversion from PFs to C60, or they could be formed by the reaction of pre-existing fullerenes (e.g., formed by the photochemical processing of HACs; Scott et al. 1997) with atomic hydrogen. During the short (~102–104 yr) transition phase, AGB-PN, H212 may be photodissociated into atomic H owing to the gradual increase of the UV radiation field with the evolution of the central star and/or by shocks (H2 dissociated through collisions) as a result of the fast post-AGB stellar winds. By reacting with atomic hydrogen, fullerenes form fulleranes at various degrees of hydrogenation. Thus, the post-AGB phase could make the reaction between fullerenes and atomic H more favorable (Cataldo & Iglesias-Groth 2009) and it seems to provide the right conditions for the formation and detection of fulleranes.

5. Conclusions

We have presented VLT/ISAAC 2.94.1 μm spectroscopy of two fullerene PNe in our Galaxy. The spectrum of Tc 1 shows a continuum with no signs of UIE features and only H (and He) nebular lines. This indicates that the IR bands seen in the Tc 1 Spitzer spectrum are very likely due to C60 and C70 alone, and not other kinds of molecules, such as fulleranes or fullerene/PAH adducts. The M 120 VLT/ISAAC spectrum shows H and He nebular lines in conjunction with the UIE feature at 3.3 μm.

The VLT/ISAAC and Spitzer spectra of these fullerene PNe confirm a correlation between the 3.3 and 11.3 μm UIE features, as previously reported in the literature, which suggests a common carrier for the two features. Unfortunately, the VLT/ISAAC observations, presented here, cannot reveal the nature of the real carrier (e.g., PAHs vs. HACs) of the 3.3 μm emission.

Interestingly, we have reported the non-detection of the strongest bands of hydrogenated fullerenes (fulleranes such as C60H18, C60H36, C70H38, and a fullerane mixture) at ~3.44, 3.51 and 3.54 μm in the 34 μm spectra of the fullerene-containing PNe Tc 1 and M 120. From a comparison of the predicted fluxes of the fullerane bands with our 2σ upper limits, we conclude that, if fulleranes are present in both objects, then they seem to be much less abundant than isolated fullerene molecules.

Our non-detection of fulleranes in two fullerene PNe, together with their possible detection (if real) in the fullerene proto-PN IRAS 01005+7910, suggests that these fullerene-related species may be formed in the short transition phase AGBPN, but they are rapidly destroyed; e.g., by the quick increase of UV radiation from the central star towards the PN stage. The transition between AGB stars and PNe seems to be the best evolutionary stellar phase for finding fulleranes in space and 34 μm spectroscopy in a larger sample of C-rich proto-PNe is encouraged.


Duley & Hu (2012) suggest that the IR features at ~7.0, 8.5, 17.4, and 18.8 μm detected in objects with PAH-like-dominated IR spectra, such as those of R Coronae Borealis stars (García-Hernández et al. 2011b), reflection nebulae (Sellgren et al. 2010), or proto-PNe (Zhang & Kwok 2011) should be attributed to proto-fullerenes (or fullerene precursors) instead of C60.


Image reduction and analysis facility (IRAF) software is distributed by the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, which are operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.


The feature parameters were measured with IRAF by assuming a Gaussian profile.


It is now known that the 17.4 and 18.9 μm features are due to fullerenes.


Sellgren et al. (2010) reported a similar separation in the spatial distribution of the fullerene and PAH emission seen in the fullerene-containing reflection nebula NGC 7023.


Fulleranes do not emit at 3.3 μm because they lack sp2-bonded CH groups (see Fig. 3).


Note that Zhang & Kwok (2013) measured similar FWHMs (in the range ~0.020.04 μm) for the posssible fullerane bands seen in the ISO spectrum of IRAS 01005+7910.


The molar absorptivities of fullerenes and fulleranes are determined with the same standard procedure (Iglesias-Groth et al. 2011, 2012) and we used them to estimate the predicted fluxes.


Zhang & Kwok (2013) suggest that C60H18 might be also present.


The HAC chemical energy model of Duley & Williams (2011) also predicts the release of warm H2 molecules trapped inside the HAC solid.


We acknowledge the help of Kameswara Rao during the data analysis. J.J.D.L., D.A.G.H., and A.M. acknowledge support provided by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) under grant AYA201458082P. D.A.G.H. was funded by the Ramón y Cajal fellowship number RYC201314182. This work is based on observations obtained with ESO/VLT under the programme 290.D-5093(A).


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All Tables

Table 1

Observational parameters of fullerene PNe and their comparison stars.

Table 2

Nebular emission lines identified in the 2.9-4.1 μm spectra of M 120 and Tc 1.

Table 3

Summary table showing examples of the expected fluxes for the fullerane features.

All Figures

thumbnail Fig. 1

VLT/ISAAC spectrum of PN M 120. The atomic H lines of the Pfund series (Pfϵ, Pfδ and Pfγ), H I (617), H I (615), and Brα, as well as the UIE feature at 3.3 μm and the line of He I (45), are indicated.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 2

VLT/ISAAC spectrum of Tc 1. The atomic H lines of the Pfund series (Pfδ and Pfγ), H I (617), H I (615), and Brα, as well as the line of He I (45), are indicated.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 3

VLT/ISAAC spectra of M 120 and Tc 1, in comparison with the laboratory spectra of the fulleranes C60H18, C70H38, and C60Hx+C70Hy in the 3.13.8 μm range. Note that the C60H18 fullerane bands at 3.42, 3.46, and 3.51 μm and the C70H38 fullerane bands at 3.44 and 3.54 μm are marked with dashed lines. The C60Hx+C70Hy fullerane bands are those at 3.44, 3.51, and 3.54 μm.

In the text

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