Discovery of IRC+10216: Mike Jura, Harry Kroto and the Discovery of C60

Date: 
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm PDT
Speaker: 
Eric Becklin
Affiliation: 
SOFIA/USRA
Location: 
N232, Room 103
Event Type: 
Colloquium

I will discuss the story of how the very red stellar object, IRC+10216, was discovered first on the 2.2 micron 61 inch all sky survey at Mount Wilson in about 1964.  Four years later the source was determined to be extremely red and the brightest object in the sky at 5 microns outside the solar system on the old 60 inch optical telescope also at Mount Wilson.  Follow up work by several groups showed that it was an extreme Carbon star at a distance of 200 pc.  In 1990 Mike Jura introduced me to Harry Kroto who had just discovered C60 with the Rice group lead by Richard Smalley.  To my surprise Harry gave some credit to the discovery of C60 to his work studying long carbon chains in IRC+10216 with a radio telescope in Canada.  I will tell that story.  Mike Jura also connected Harry with the Arizona chemists that produced the first physical samples of C60.  This lead Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley and Robert Curl to receive the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  I will finish the story by saying a few words about the discovery of C60 in the ISM with the Spitzer Space telescope by Jan Cami and others and discuss several independent connections to SOFIA.

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