In recent years, the fullerene species C60 (and to a lesser extent C70) has been detected in a variety of astrophysical environments -- from the circumstellar carbon-rich surroundings of evolved stars to interstellar reflection nebulae and young stellar objects. Understanding how these species form, evolve and respond to their environment yields important insights into the characteristics of large aromatics in space -- thought to be the main reservoir of organic material in space. In this SOFIA teletalk, I will present an overview of what we have learned about cosmic fullerenes from astronomical observations, theoretical calculations and recent laboratory experiments, and show how fullerenes have significantly changed our understanding of interstellar chemistry. I will discuss the conditions that appear to be conducive to the formation and/or detection of fullerenes, and highlight some of the difficulties we still face in understanding the formation of fullerenes in planetary nebulae. I will outline how SOFIA will help in addressing some of these issues.
The Role of Cosmic Fullerenes
University of Western Ontario